Chandeliers have a long history with the earliest found in imagery from the 1400’s. The word ‘chandelier’ appears in around the same time in the English language. The word roots from the 10th-century French word candelabra, and before this the Latin word candelabrum, which came from the Latin candela, meaning candle.
Early chandeliers were simple wooden crosses with spikes through the wood where candles were attached. These were hoisted with ropes over beams high enough to clear the heads of people below. They were used in cathedrals, monasteries and were found in wealthy homes throughout medieval times. These early chandeliers were built for function rather than their decorative value and were often lit only on special occasions. During the Reformation, many of these chandeliers were destroyed, along with the buildings that housed them.
Around the 15th century, more complex and decorative chandeliers became popular. These were built on rings or had crown designs. The most decorative were found in palaces of kings and because they were costly to make they became a status symbol.
The earliest known crystal chandeliers appeared towards the end of the 16th century and were dressed with rock crystals, a transparent form of quartz. The shapes of these crystals would have been irregular. By the end of the 17th-century chandeliers, polished glass trimmings were used and the shapes were becoming more regular. Some of these shapes are still in use today.
By the 18th century, chandeliers became extremely decorative with cast gold forms (ormolu) of curved ornate arms and many candles. With advancements in glass making a cheaper production of lead crystal made the light scattering properties of crystal popular in chandeliers.
In the 19th century, gas lighting became feasible and ‘gasoliers’ were produced. Many candle chandeliers were converted to gas. By the later century when electric lighting appeared some chandeliers were equipped to use both gas and electricity because electrical distribution was limited. When electricity became more dependable, electric-only chandeliers became standard.
Today’s chandeliers take all forms from modern to organic and everything in between. Chandeliers are a cost-effective way to enhance any room in your home and can be used almost anywhere ceiling lighting can be installed. Expert decorators make use of the beneficial effects of chandeliers to create ambiance and mood.
When you are ready to select a chandelier remember they come in every conceivable style, shape, illumination, and size. Be creative. Choose a chandelier that not only meets your lighting needs but accentuates and brings life to space where it will live.
Take a look at the following examples of modern chandeliers.