Glass Museum

The History of the Chandelier

Meaning ‘candle holder’, the word chandelier originates from the French word ‘chandelle’ (a fixture attached to the ceiling).  The Chandelier is the most stylish and beautiful form of lighting in the world, making a statement in any room.

The earliest chandelier dates back to over 1000 years ago, to medieval times. Then, chandeliers were generally made of wood, with candles placed on spikes set around them – a far cry from the stunning glass and crystal creations we know and love today.  Wooden lighting fixtures and exposed flames would send the health and safety conscious of us completely mad!

Gradually, rich Europeans re-designed the chandelier and by the early 1900’s crystal chandeliers with candles were all the rage. Crystal chandeliers made from cut glass which caught the light and sparkled brightly adorned the homes of the wealthy and famous, showing off their wealth and social status.

By the mid-19th century, with the popularity of gas lighting, candle chandeliers were converted and by the 1890s, most chandeliers used a combination of gas and electricity.

The largest chandeliers in history

One of the most beautiful chandeliers in the world can be seen in Istanbul. Gifted to the Dolmabahce Palace by Queen Victoria, the chandelier weighs 4.5 tons and has 750 lamps. Other stunning examples of crystal chandeliers can be seen in the ‘Grand Salon’ of the Louvre and the Hall of Mirrors, in the Palace of Versailles, Paris, which contains 17 large and 26 small chandeliers, holding up to 1,000 candles in total, as well as in Prague, where many of the art nouveau buildings contain beautiful examples of chandeliers from the early 1900s.

Today, chandeliers have become glass art in museums across the globe. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a stunning example of a blown glass chandelier in the entrance hall. Created by glass artist Dale Chihuly in 2000, the 30ft chandelier is a breathtaking sight for visitors entering the museum.

The Corning Museum of Glass in New York contains more than 40,000 objects made from glass, dating from Egyptian times to the present day. Antique bowls, sculptures and glass portraits sit alongside contemporary sculptures and of course some amazing chandeliers, including the Erbium Chandelier, a vivid pink blown glass chandelier created in 1993 by Dale Chihuly.

Today, chandeliers have become more affordable for everyone. It is still lovely to have a unique and bespoke chandelier hand crafted by local glass artists, but it is also possible to find more budget friendly versions on the internet and in various home furnishing shops.  The chandelier has evolved from its simplest wooden designs to incorporate a wide variety of materials in its more modern reincarnation.  Furthermore, chandelier designs have also been adapted to suit those looking more for a piece of modern art than necessary lighting.  Chandelier designers such as Rocco Borghese have collections that show the stark difference between classic designs and more contemporary .

Modern Chandeliers.

Chandeliers have a rich history and are making a resurgence in modern times.  There is a huge variety of sizes and styles, and of course price right from the affordable ones in larger retailers to custom made chandeliers by boutique experts.