According to British management consultant, critic and bon vivant, Peter York, “Chandeliers are marvels of drop-dead showiness, the jewellery of architecture.” This is especially true of the crystal chandelier.
Chandeliers have been showpieces throughout their history. They first appeared in the 6th century as simple arrangements with multiple candles. Most candles were made from tallow – animal fat. They were smoky, they smelled unpleasant, and they dripped. Standing beneath the chandelier was, therefore, a risky business. Beeswax candles were cleaner but vastly more expensive. Only those with great wealth and a penchant for conspicuous consumption could afford to burn several at a time.
In the 8th century, Moorish settlers in Europe introduced the hanging lamp. This was another type of early chandelier that inspired the familiar crown shape. By the 15th century, the Dutch had developed the classic style from the work of master craftsmen of Dinant (now in Belgium), who produced decorative forms in brass and bronze.
By the 17th century, crafters across Europe were using a range of additional materials. They produced increasingly intricate designs – in wood, glass, and rock crystal. Early European settlers in America also made chandeliers – often using tin, wood or metal with wire arms. The more expensive materials readily available on the Continent were not easily affordable in the Colonies.
In the late 19th century the use of gas and, later, electricity had become more widespread. At about the same time, in 1892, Bohemian glassmaker Daniel Swarovski invented a machine that enabled the precise cutting of crystals. These developments were to change chandeliers forever.
At first, Swarovski used his machine to make jewellery. Almost a century later, crystal cutters turned their skilled hands to chandeliers, crafting the elegant and sparkling creations we are familiar with today.
The large crystal chandelier was once synonymous with traditional stately homes. Now, designers use crystal in a variety of applications – in a spirit of fun or formality – to highlight, accentuate and decorate.
We have dozens of crystal chandeliers in our Custom Lightingt studio. We also have access to many magnificent pieces from the world’s top lighting design houses, including Swarovski. You can see some of them here.