What Is A Chandelier? Popular Chandelier Types
What Is A Chandelier?
A chandelier, also referred to as a girandole, candelabra lamp or simply suspended lights, is a decorative lighting fixture that is designed to hang from the ceiling or be mounted on a wall. It’s an elegant piece that has undergone several transformations over the years, from its design to the type of light source it uses.
Traditional chandeliers are adorned with hanging crystal prisms that cast a refracted light in a room. Contemporary designs, on the other hand, have a more streamlined look and emit direct light from the lamps, sometimes covered by translucent glass.
Modern chandeliers incorporate both classic and contemporary styles, using LED lights and often combining the elements of both, including refractive crystal prisms or small mirrors.
Chandeliers should not be confused with pendant lights, as they typically consist of multiple lights hanging from a branched frame, whereas pendant lights hang from a single cord and contain one or two lights with minimal decorations.
Chandeliers can be found in a variety of sizes, from large installations in hallways, living rooms, staircases, lounges and dining rooms, to smaller versions suitable for bedrooms or other small spaces. Larger chandeliers are often installed in churches or cathedrals.
The history of chandeliers dates back to the medieval period, where they evolved from candelabras and were used with candles as a source of light. Over time, gas lights and then electric lights replaced candles, leading to the current state-of-the-art designs that we see today.
History Of Chandelier
Chandeliers have a rich history that can be traced back to the Byzantine period, where oil lamps were hung in the form of a chandelier, known as polycandela. A variation of the polycandela took the shape of a lamp stand placed on legs instead of being hung by chains.
Examples of these can be found in the Seljuq realm and served as a prototype for the European chandelier. These early chandeliers were made of bronze or iron frames that held glass beakers filled with oil and provided with a wick. They were used in churches, synagogues, and aristocratic households during the early Middle Ages.
During medieval times, candle chandeliers were used by the wealthy and could be moved to different rooms. In the 15th century, more intricate chandeliers, based on ring or crown designs, became popular in palaces, homes of the nobility, clergy, and merchants.
Their high cost made chandeliers symbols of luxury and status, and ivory chandeliers were even depicted in the palace of the king of Mutapa in a 17th-century description by Olfert Dapper. By the early 18th century, ornate cast ormolu chandeliers with long curved arms and many candles were found in the homes of the growing merchant class. These chandeliers incorporated neoclassical motifs and were mostly made of cast metals, but some were carved and gilded wood.
During the 18th century, glass chandeliers were produced by Bohemians and Venetian glassmakers who were both masters of the art. Bohemian style was popular across Europe and was famous for its light refraction due to crystal prisms.
In reaction to this, Italian glass factories in Murano created new types of artistic light sources. Venetian glassmakers relied on the unique qualities of their glass, which was not suitable for faceting, and created chandeliers with intricate arabesques of leaves, flowers, and fruits, made possible by the specific type of glass used in Murano.
The soda glass used by Venetian glassmakers was unique and clear, which required great skill and time to twist and shape into a chandelier. This new type of chandelier was called ciocca and consisted of a metal frame covered with small elements in blown glass, either transparent or colored.
In the mid-19th century, as gas lighting became popular, branched ceiling fixtures known as gasoliers were produced, and many candle chandeliers were converted. By the 1890s, with the appearance of electric light, some chandeliers were equipped with both gas and electricity.
With the widespread distribution of electricity, electric-only chandeliers became the standard, and a new term, electrolier, was coined for these.
Today, they are commonly referred to as chandeliers. Some chandeliers are fitted with bulbs that imitate candle flames, or with bulbs that contain a shimmering gas discharge. The world’s largest English chandelier, located in the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tons.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, more complex and elaborate chandeliers were developed, but the widespread introduction of gas and electricity had diminished their appeal as a status symbol. By the end of the 20th century, chandeliers were often used as decorative focal points for rooms and did not necessarily provide illumination.
Overall, chandeliers have evolved from simple oil lamps to intricate works of art that symbolize luxury and elegance.
Popular Chandelier Types
Chandeliers are an important decor element and come in various types, each with its own unique style. Crystal chandeliers are the epitome of elegance with their glittering crystals that make a grand statement.
Glass chandeliers offer a casual and modern touch, while Tiffany chandeliers showcase the stained glass shades of the Art Nouveau style.
Candle chandeliers are traditional, with candle-shaped lightbulbs that remind us of the French word for chandelier, “candleholder.” Drum chandeliers have a cylindrical fabric shade and feature branches in their iconic shape.
Neoclassical chandeliers are extremely ornate, with delicate details, while industrial chandeliers embody chic with their bold geometric shapes, exposed bulbs, and metal construction.
How To Install A Chandelier
Installing a chandelier can be a fun and challenging DIY project, or it can be left to the professionals. Either way there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing and installing a chandelier. Start by selecting a chandelier that is the right size for your room and table.
For a dining room, it should be one foot narrower than the table and hang 30-34 inches above the table with additional height added for higher ceilings. In a larger room, such as a foyer or living room you can choose a broader and longer chandelier.
Before installation, check that your ceiling electrical box can support the weight of your chandelier. If not, hire an electrician to upgrade the box. If you’re comfortable working with electricity, try installing the chandelier yourself, otherwise, hiring an electrician is recommended.