Chandeliers: A Rags to Riches History

You might wonder ‘why should I install chandeliers in my home or my business?’ Chandeliers have long been associated with elegance, luxury and beauty, and with a history dating back to the 14th century, it is crystal clear that chandeliers will add an air of magnificence to any property.

The word 'chandelier' comes from the French word 'chandelle' - meaning candle. Although a vision of glamourous crystal chandeliers might come to mind, the earliest forms of chandeliers were actually considerably humble when compared to the modern versions that are common today.

The first conception of a chandelier consisted simply of a wooden cross designed with a small spike at the ends. The candles, made of animal fat (tallow) back in that era, were attached to each of the wooden spikes and the chandeliers were then suspended by ropes or chains from the ceiling.

Since there was no electricity in the early days, lighting a room at night was only possible through wall sconces which could only illuminate small areas of a room. A fireplace was also a source for light, but it meant that the illumination is only restricted to one area. To bring light to other areas freely, people carried small candles as they moved around.

Chandeliers were then made to offer a better way of lighting. By the 15th century, more elaborate forms of chandeliers were used in medieval churches and abbeys. Their designs were based on a ring or a crown and became a popular fixture in palaces and homes of the wealthy or powerful.

Commoners like farmers and tradesmen had little use for such forms of lighting as they planned most of their days around the rising and setting of the sun. Modest homes were often small and poorly constructed, making chandeliers a fire hazard. Instead, only residences of nobility, clergy and merchants featured the costly chandelier, cementing it as a symbol of luxury and status.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, chandeliers were more prevalent in the homes of wealthier merchants. As the housing situation and quality began to improve, they finally became increasingly common in the homes of the working class. Their chandeliers were ordinarily made with wrought iron, wood and tin sheets, however well-to-do homes possessed a more elaborate version, featuring ornate pieces made with brass.

Since then, the chandelier started to evolve as craftsmen began exploring and experimenting with various elements. Things like mirrors, polished brass plates, light refraction and quartz crystals were used to draw inspiration and creativity. The results found thatrock crystal were too brittle and hard to work with, on top of being rare and very expensive. Pressed glass pieces on the other hand were brittle and dull. They were poor at refracting light so they were not the ideal option.

A revolutionary turn for the world of lighting came in 1676, when George Ravenscroft, and English glassmaker, introduced leaded glass for the very first time. Soon it became the preferred material to manufacture chandeliers in as it is softer to work with and refracts light brilliantly.

By the late 1800s, an Austrian (who is now a household name in crystal production) patented a machine to cut leaded glass to precision. This turning point resulted in the prestigious multi-million dollar empire we know today as Swarovski, created by its founder Daniel Swarovsky.

Not only is the chandelier a functional lighting option today, it has also become a dazzling work of art that impresses and captivates.

Over the years, the development of electric lighting and manufacturing methods has only served to improve the production and designs of chandeliers.

Designer Chandeliers are proud to bring you a wide variety of creative and attractive chandelier designs in our extensive range. Browse by eras to find breathtaking chandeliers from the Victorian, Georgian, Art Deco, Edwardian, and Provincial styles. Otherwise, shop by styles to see Odean chandeliers, Bohemia, Maria Theresa, French Provincial, Antique, French Basket and Empire & Empress styles. We also have a selection of contemporary styles to give your space that sophisticated edge. No matter what you’re looking for, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect fit here at Designer Chandeliers.