A Chandelier That Glows in the Night

We cleaned the chandelier today- a once in a year event, as it hangs from a 15 ft. ceiling. I climb a very tall ladder, knock off cobwebs and spray it till the dust drips off onto the sheet below it. My husband does a great job holding the ladder. He even lets me take some photos from my perch on high.

We found our chandelier at a local antique fair and were told it had originally hung in a large Hartford CT home. Surprisingly my husband and I both fell in love with it- all girly, pretty, and sparkly. I don’t think men usually appreciate chandeliers, (but special ones do). Got the wiring re-done and sourced a few missing pieces of glass.

Chandeliers have a certain air of luxury that can be intimidating. You might think you need a more formal setting. You don’t- but historically, they were a luxury item reserved for the wealthy.

Chandelier-at-Linderhof-Castle-1024x682

Linderhof Palace, France- By candlelight

Chandelier comes from the French word “chandelle,” and literally means “candle holder.” They originated in the 14th century, usually made of two wooden bars forming a cross- with a spike at each end to hold candles. If you’ve ever lost power in a storm, you quickly realize how important overhead lighting is in the dark. Overhead lighting would have been a luxury before electricity. The cluster lighting provided by chandeliers was primarily found in churches and other large meeting places. By the 1800s, gas replaced candles, in the form of “gasoliers.” The designs were the same as chandeliers but there was a huge difference in their functionality. Many existing chandeliers were converted to gas. And later updated to electric.

By the 15th century, more complex, decorative chandeliers became popular, and as the most decorative ones were found in palaces, they became a status symbol. All kinds of metal and extravagant shapes were created. My favorite chandelier element is the glass hanging from them.

MGD-1231SML

Daytime chandelier

Crystal chandeliers emerged toward the end of the 16th century and were finished with somewhat irregular, transparent quartz crystals. By the end of the 17th century, polished glass trimmings were used and shapes became more regular- similar to today. With advancements in glass work and the cheaper production of lead crystal, crystal became popular in chandeliers. Lead crystal’s highly refractive surface offers a beautiful light scattering ability. We put a dimmer on our chandelier so you can enjoy its glow at lower settings- not unlike a candle effect. You need supplemental lighting in the room for practical use but the chandelier offers great mood lighting for nighttime entertaining. (And no candle clean-up) I use both.

Next time you’re casting about for home décor changes, re-visit your existing lighting and/or window placement first. From natural light as it travels through your house to track lighting up high that opens a room, or under-shelf lighting- each offers something special that can make a big difference. And next time you see something beautiful that you love for your home, buy it! Fit the house and the neighborhood around it. My motto. Give them something to talk about. Bonnie Raitt

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Some chandelier references: hankering for history; artisan crafted lighting ( info on how to size for a chandelier); A local NY industrial designer known for her modern chandeliers: http://www.lindseyadelman.com

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