Chandeliers – A History

The chandelier originated merely as a wooden or metal ceiling mounted candle holder, which could be either unhooked to change candles or winched down if it were larger. As time progressed, chandeliers became increasingly elaborate and makers vied with each other to invent more interesting shapes and use ever more expensive materials to satisfy the consumer. Versailles’ chandeliers in the Hall of Mirrors, for example, were of silver with rock crystal as pendent drops – at an immense cost to Louis XIV.

Towards the middle of the 18th century, lead glass became ‘de rigueur’ as the medium for illuminating the houses of the rich and famous and the chandeliers that remain are arguably the best examples of glass cutting. The lead glass imitated the rock crystal of earlier eras and could be cut to any shape. Premier manufacturers of the day; Parker, Perry, Lafount etc would invent new droplets to hang on chandeliers and society ladies would have parties to redress their chandeliers with the latest droplets and in the latest styles.

Because of high glass taxes in England in the 18th century, chandeliers were always the preserve of the super rich of the time. Lights, candelabra and lustres from this era remain very highly prized and priced. As we move into the 19th century, steam powered cutting allowed a certain amount of increased production, so pieces from this era are still well made and finished to a high degree but they are not as expensive as earlier examples which is where most collectors and enthusiasts can afford to indulge their passions!

As we enter the modern era, chandeliers start to become more affordable. They are fussy, expensive and time-consuming to make, repair and restore but they are such wonderful confections that they continue to enthrall generation after generation. They have had a resurgence recently, so it seems the allure of the chandelier is as real now as it was 250 years ago. Long may it continue…