History of Chandeliers

Published: 25th October 2010
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Chandeliers, meaning ‘candle holder’ can be lined back to the 16th century, where they were only found in medieval churches, abbeys and monasteries. They could also be found in the big houses of the wealthy. The chandeliers would have been lit with candles; even still they were only lit on special occasions. Chandeliers were used for mainly decorative purposes, and became a sign of wealth.

Chandeliers were firstly made out of wood in simple designs, such as two beams of wood in a cross shape with a spike at each end to hold a candle. Today they can be made as glass, metal or chrome chandeliers.

In the early 18th century developments in glass making made the production of lead crystal cheaper. The lead crystal had light scattering qualities because of the highly refractive glass. This reflective glass soon became a very popular addition, and lead to the crystal chandelier.

Before the glass trimmings a form of quartz was used, however the shapes were often irregular. It was towards the end of the 17th century when chandeliers started to be made from glass, the trimmings became regular shapes, some of which are still used in chandeliers today. It was the discovery of adding lead oxide to glass that made the glass easier to cut, more transparent and more reflective than rock crystal.

During the 1750’s the demand for chandeliers increased dramatically. The designs became more elaborate, the candle sockets and drip pans became more intricate including details of flowers and bells. The shafts of the chandeliers became longer and the whole design more complex.

Another development for the chandelier was the use of Swarovski crystals which began in 1965. They began making high quality stones in 1895 but it wasn’t until 1965 when they started manufacturing parts for chandeliers. Some examples of these can be found in the palace of Versailles.

It wasn’t until the 19th century when widespread introduction of first gas and then electrical lighting were introduced. This hugely disvalued the traditional form of lighting as it became widely available. Towards the end of 20th century the chandelier was used more as a decorative focal point and may not give any illumination.

It was the craftsmen of Murano who began making the elaborate glass chandeliers we find today. They are now exported all over the world. They can be seen in places like Venice, London and St Marks square. Since then many chandelier companies have developed and are still manufacturing.

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