Chandeliers: History in Your Home

Published on December 23 2009 by GuestPoster in Home Design, Lighting

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Have you considered installing a chandelier? It will add grace and elegance to your home. Chandeliers have a long history and adding one to your decor is like having a piece of history in your home.

The earliest chandeliers are thought to have been used in medieval churches. They generally took the form of a flat or horizontal cross that had a number of spikes sticking up. Candles would be secured to the spikes and the whole assembly could be hoisted above the congregation’s heads. They probably used rope or chain for suspension.

Over time more complex forms of chandeliers were invented. They become popular decorative features – merchants, clergy and nobles decorated their homes with this new light source. The high cost made the chandelier a symbol of luxury and status. Only the wealthiest of merchants and the stateliest of clergy could afford the opulence of chandelier lighting.

During the 18th century, ornate chandeliers with gilt decoration became very popular. The designs became more elaborate as the art grew. A standard chandelier of the period had long, curved arms and dozens and dozens of candles. More opulent but less costly, chandeliers could be found in the homes of the growing merchant class. Neoclassical motifs like scrolls and columns were common. The chandeliers of this period were mostly in cast metals but carved and gilded wood were popular, too. Technological improvements in glassmaking allowed for the cheaper production of lead crystal. Lead crystal is highly refractive – sending rainbow colors everywhere. So it’s not surprising that leaded glass quickly became a popular addition, leading to the crystal chandelier.

Chandeliers continued to evolve as technology and artistry expanded. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, chandeliers were the choice for illumination. Nobility down through the merchant classes enjoyed the extended hours that indoor lighting allowed. As expected, the richer the household, the more elaborate the chandelier.  The introduction of first gas then electrical lighting devalued the chandelier’s appeal. Gas powered chandeliers, a precursor to our electric lighting, appeared in the mid-19th century, and many candle chandeliers were converted to gas. By the turn of the 20th century, gas chandeliers were being converted to electricity. Electricity took over as our main power source very quickly and chandeliers were produced solely for electric use.

In our time, the chandelier is used more as a decorative focal point for a room and may not give any significant  illumination. Some of the most popular styles include bronze, crystal, leaf-motif, mission style and wrought iron. Depending on the style, you can feel like you are accenting your home with a piece of history, for example by installing a traditional lead crystal  chandelier, or simply continuing the long line of families who chose to illuminate with chandeliers. Either way, it’s a smart lighting choice.


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