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The History of the Chandelier: A look back and to the future

Posted on June 03, 2013

Chandeliers have historically been associated with luxury and elegance. Despite their humble functional origins and less ornate forms, they were always symbols of wealth and status. Chandeliers are now in many homes and in many different styles and designs. Though they are typically hung in dining rooms to provide light and serve as a striking focal point, contemporary interior design brings chandeliers of different styles into entrance halls, offices, bathrooms or any place you want to enjoy the elegance of a chandelier. Thingz Contemporary takes a look back to spark some ideas for your home!

The Earliest Chandeliers

The definition for the word chandelier is “candle holder.” And originally the chandelier was exactly that; a candle holder. Used to illuminate church interiors and castles, as well as the homes of the wealthy and upper class, chandeliers first appeared during the 14th century. They were a simple design of two wood beams forming a cross with a single spike at the end of each beam that held a candle.

The first chandeliers were obviously very simple and not as ornate as later designs. However the element and ideas of class and status still applied to the use of chandeliers. Because of their cost, and outside of their main use in churches and abbeys, only the wealthy could afford to own chandeliers and maintain them. The Everesty 6 gives the feeling of the traditional candle holders with much less maintenance.

The 15th Century

More complex forms of chandeliers, based on ring or crown designs were developed during the 15th century. Chandelier designs became much more intricate, serving as decorative features in palaces and homes of nobility, clergy and merchants. The chandelier’s high cost continued to make the chandelier a symbol of luxury and status. Lenka 36 is a modern take on the ring design and sure to enliven any room.

The 16th Century

Rock crystal, a semiprecious stone, soon became the primary material used to construct extremely expensive chandeliers that were only acquired by few. Rock crystal chandeliers were rare and very precious. The time it took to create even one chandelier was extensive. Each individual pendent for such chandeliers was carved out of the stone and hung from a gilt or silver metal frame. The Nimah chandelier can add that jeweled sparkle to your room.

The 18th Century

The chandelier continued to evolve over time into more ornate cast forms with long, curved arms and many candles. During the early 18th century these chandeliers were in the homes of many in the growing merchant class. Neo-classical motifs, mostly in cast metals, but also in carved and gilded wood, became an increasingly common element. Lead crystal was produced at a cheaper rate because of developments in glassmaking. The light scattering properties of lead crystal quickly became a popular addition to the design, and led to the development of the crystal chandelier.

The discovery of lead crystal was a huge step in the development of crystal chandeliers. Although invented in 1675 in England, lead crystal was not discovered in France until much later. These types of discoveries were top-secret and well-guarded. One of the major benefits of lead crystal was that it was much more brilliant and transparent than the glass used during that time. Since it was softer than venetian glass, this new lead crystal was perfectly suited to being cut into shapes and facets. The faceted pendants of Radin Square bring radiant light into any space.

The 19th Century

As gas lighting caught on during the mid-19th century, branched ceiling fixtures called gasoliers (a portmanteau of gas and chandelier) were produced, and many candle chandeliers were converted. With the appearance of the electric light by the 1890’s, some chandeliers used both gas and light. As distribution of electricity widened, and supplies became more dependable, electric-only chandeliers became standard. Luxuria 6 is an example of simple elegance often seen in the 19th century gasoliers.

More complex and elaborate chandeliers continued to be developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but the widespread introduction of gas and electricity devalued the chandelier’s appeal as a status symbol. Furthermore, toward the end of the 20th century, chandeliers were utilized as focal points in rooms instead of solely for illumination.

Chandeliers Today

Now found in most homes and in many different styles, chandeliers are typically hung in a dining room. Used to provide light as well as to create a dramatic focal point, chandeliers are available in materials such as crystal, metal and glass. In addition, as chandeliers continue to grow and change in size and extravagance, illumination has become a secondary emphasis. Yet when working with modern design, lighting design in particular is returning to a “function over form” mentality. The Groove chandelier uses drama and dazzle to light up any room.

Available in a wide variety of unique and elegant designs, chandeliers still remain an important part of interior lighting. From traditional to modern and every design style in between, there is certainly a type of chandelier available for every room in need of one. Serving dual purposes as both illumination and dramatic effect, chandeliers are the perfect finishing touch in an interior space.

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