Chandeliers: The perfect blend of decadence and sparkle
Our antiques expert takes a look at a type of lighting that goes up to 11 on the fabulous scale!
The lighter evenings and lengthening days made me realise we don’t just use lighting for practical reasons. For centuries, we’ve elaborated and ornamented the simple hanging lamp with crystals, glass, and mirrors to make light sparkle, glitter and dance decoratively across our rooms.
The decadent 17th century French court of Louis XIV created the grand chandelier.
Up to eight feet wide, these dazzling constructions held hundreds of candles and thousands of quartz rock crystals. Changing Georgian fashions advanced chandelier design. Evening dinner parties replaced the upper class tradition of lunchtime dining, requiring lighting. The poor quality of candlelight made glass and mirrored chandeliers the perfect way to increase light around an elegant room.
Candles and glass were expensive and highly taxed, making chandeliers the ultimate status symbol.
A wealthy Georgian might burn hundreds of candles during a dinner party, but be found reading by the light of a fire or cheap tallow candle once all the guests had left!
By 1800, the classic Regency ‘frame’ or ‘tent’ chandelier became popular; a metal frame supporting crystal chains running the length of the chandelier. This lavish, Regency-inspired chandelier uses crystal chains and tear-shaped droppers to maximise light distribution without excess weight.
Chandeliers dating from Georgian times are now both rare and extremely valuable. William Parker’s neoclassical crystal chandeliers in the Bath Assembly Rooms are valued at several million pounds!
Victorians replaced candle chandeliers with utilitarian brass ‘gasoliers’, leaving no real legacy for collectors. The introduction of electricity in the 20th century enabled a return to innovation in the modern chandelier, design no longer constrained by the presence of fire.
Most people seeking a ‘traditional’ chandelier choose a classical Georgian inspired reproduction.
Arts and crafts, Nouveau, or Deco originals can still be found, rarely cheap, but lovely examples of early 20th century design, and the closest to ‘antique’ chandeliers most of us can afford.
If you still require the exotic Murano glass Chandeliers, these start at £50,000 and go up to about £250,000.