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The History Of The Chandelier

Author: Sarah Wigmore
Published: June 20, 2014

Chandeliers have always been synonymous with luxury, opulence and wealth. Even the most basic first chandeliers from the 14th and 15th century were only for the rich and would not be found in the small homes occupied by farmers or tradesmen of that time. So where did it all begin?

The word ‘chandelier’ was first used in English in the late 14th century and came from the Latin candela meaning candle.

The Lineage Of The Chandelier

A Rich History

The earliest chandeliers were simple in design and consisted of a wooden cross with small spikes positioned at each end on which the candles were placed. The tallow candles were made of animal fat and the chandelier was suspended from the ceiling. It was a good alternative to wall sconces or carrying a single candle about as it provided a more even spread of light.

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15th Century

From the 15th century chandeliers became popular decorative features in palaces and were also used to illuminate medieval churches and abbeys. Metal and gilded gold chandeliers appeared in homes of the wealthy and were seen as a status symbol.

16th/17th Century

During the 16th and 17th centuries chandeliers continued to find their way into wealthier homes. As housing gradually improved, chandeliers in wood, wrought iron and tin sheet began to appear in the working class home. Craftsmen also began to experiment with other materials for the chandelier concentrating on light refraction. They used mirrors and polished brass plates as well as crystal.

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The Crystal Chandelier

Crystal is strongly associated with the chandelier even today and the first crystal chandelier appeared in the late 16th century. Initially it was designed with natural rock crystal, a semi-precious stone, which was extremely difficult to cut. The rock crystal chandelier was very expensive as each pendant was carved from stone and hung from a gilt silver metal structure making it accessible to only the few.

In 1676 an English glassmaker, George Ravenscroft, developed a new crystalline glass that resembled the natural crystal rock but was far easier to cut. It was known as leaded glass and became the preferred choice of material for chandeliers due to its light refracting properties.

18th Century

Chandeliers blown from the beautiful Murano glass of Venice were a popular choice in the early 18th century. This period also saw innovator Daniel Swarovski producing cut stones for ornate crystal chandeliers.

19th Century

In the 1800’s with the introduction of both gas and electric lighting many candle chandeliers were converted. Electric chandeliers finally became standard.
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Design Influence

The chandeliers of today still take their inspiration from the designs of a bygone era; some featuring flickering candle bulbs as a nod to the past. This can be seen in the Katie 9 Light Chandelier with its elaborate design, glass sconces and crystal droplets.

Interesting fact

According to the Guinness World Records, the largest chandelier named ‘Reflective Flow’ weighs 18,000 kg and consists of 165,000 LED units. The chandelier was measured in the Ali Bin Khalifa Al Hitmi & Co building in Doha, Qatar in 2010 where it is installed. It measures 19 ft in height at the tallest point of its body, 41 ft in linear width and 126 ft 4 inches in linear length.

The chandelier may be part of lighting’s history but it’s also a popular choice for lighting today. For a selection of the best please have a look at our chandelier section.