Part 1: Size, Shape, and Production Differences
In an ever-expanding global market, consumers have many choices when it comes to the source of their products. Naturally, we’re all hoping to find the most bang for our buck. What happens, however, when cheap, poorly constructed copies enter the marketplace and skew a consumer’s evaluation of their choice of products? Our recent experience highlights the product variation and risks involved with purchasing imitation chandeliers and lighting art from China. Part One of this article will cover the differences in Size, Shape, and Production of our artisan lighting products versus imitation models. Recently, we became aware that several Chinese companies have been illegally taking proprietary images from our websites (images of original art pieces which are owned by American glass artists and our company) to purportedly sell the same glass lighting art made in China at a fraction of the cost. After contacting the websites to request immediate removal of the stolen images, we became curious about the class of products coming out of China. Intending to have what’s pictured online, what exactly are their customers receiving? To find out, we ordered two Chinese-made imitation chandeliers to compare to our own high quality product. As you’ll see below, the differences are vast.
Images of original lighting artwork designed and made by a prominent American glass artist. These exact images were used by a Chinese company to sell imitation chandeliers.
The most noticeable difference between the American and Chinese product is the overall size of the individual pieces. Copying from a photo, the Chinese producers could not have known the actual size of the individual pieces of the original chandelier. The differences are staggering: the American-made pieces are 3 1/2” to 6 1/2” longer than the Chinese copies, and typically double the diameter! Not only are the Chinese pieces smaller, their sizes also inconsistent relative to our products.
Why does this matter? When the various pieces are assembled, the aggregation of those size differentials will make a large impact in the overall look of the finished chandelier. The resulting piece would likely have an inconsistent, uneven shape. These chandeliers are constructed by stacking multiple pieces onto a frame, so if the glass is inconsistent in size, the imitation chandeliers will look like a child who tried to cut their own hair: ragged and unprofessional, and lacking any artistic design.
Using these smaller, inconsistent pieces, this Chinese company’s product simply would not have been able to achieve the overall size or resemblance of our original. Even if a much larger frame (or armature) had been used to attempt to replicate the size, the gaps between their small glass pieces would result in “light holes” in the final chandelier.
The shape of individual glass pieces in the copies are also significantly different than the original artist’s pieces. Our artisans create specific shapes for the intended final creation, and without that skill and planning, the look of the original chandelier cannot be achieved.
Using the examples shown in the image below, notice how the original artist’s pieces have a relaxed, elegant and beautifully tapered curve. This allows them to project at the proper angle for the original artist’s vision. The Chinese pieces, however, have a much curvier look which will result in more gaps between neighboring pieces, and will also project at a lower, downward angle. With these variations, it would be impossible for the copied chandelier to resemble the original vision. If you purchase Chinese imitation chandeliers, you simply will not receive what you’re expecting.
Another major difference is the finishing technique for the tops of each piece. In the image below, take note of the American-made piece with a completely closed and finished loop. This allows for proper support of the attaching hook and weight of the piece, and very importantly keeps the interior of the piece sealed from anything getting inside.
The Chinese version has an open end, into which dust and insects will fall inside and accumulate. In no time, this will result in darkening and significantly reduced luminosity of the light as it transfers through the dirty, littered glass. The only way to clean the pieces would be to disassemble the chandelier and attempt to get inside of those curvy shapes to properly clean them. Already laborious and difficult, repeated cleaning presents an added risk of breakage during the process.
Additionally, most of the Chinese imitation chandeliers’ pieces we have received do not even have pre-made loop holes or proper installation elements. Their manufacturer failed to supply any installation instruction, or to illustrate how the pieces were to be attached to the internal framework, or armature. It would be like selling you a boat without the oars. We think it is unacceptable to expect a customer to figure out how to make the hole and find an attachment to the armature.
Even if you had the means to attempt to drill a hole in an imitation glass piece, it is very probable that the added heat on otherwise cool glass will result in stress fractures. These tiny cracks, often so small they cannot be seen, will break unexpectedly in time – or worse, break the glass immediately while drilling. As glass pieces react to the ambient temperature in the room, they naturally expand and contract. With a stress fracture, even a slight temperature change could cause the piece to break. This is a common problem with imitation pieces that are not finished or annealed properly, as is the case with the Chinese copies.
Now that we’ve covered Size, Shape, and Production, stay tuned for Part Two for insight into the Differences in Glass Type, Color Density, and Luminosity.