A Brief History of the Crystal Chandelier

When you think of crystal chandeliers, your mind probably goes straight to large, elaborate structures, a la Versailles or Beauty and the Beast:

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles
Beauty and the Beast Ballroom

In reality, the first uses of crystal in lighting appeared long before Marie Antoinette ate her cake and Belle waltzed to the sound of Angela Lansbury's voice. Crystal chandeliers appeared in the late 16th century and were designed with natural rock crystals, making them difficult to produce and expensive to own. Roughly a century later, in 1676, Englishman George Ravenscroft patented flint glass, a new material made with significant amounts of lead oxide that made it easier to cut and more prismatic. This marked the advent of English style chandeliers, identified by metal pieces in the main shaft, receiver bowl, and receiver plate, and glass arms extending from the plate to the drip pans. Unfortunately, few chandeliers from this time survive today, but the shape is quite familiar!

                                        17th century bronze chandelier, available on 1stdibs

                                       17th century bronze chandelier, available on 1stdibs

At the same time, Venetian glass makers were continuing to develop a glass-manufacturing industry that dates back to the 8th century and the Roman Empire. The Glassmakers Guild moved all furnaces to the island of Murano in the 13th century, for the dual purpose of preventing fires from spreading to the wooden structures of the city and making it harder for the artisans to reveal trade secrets. To add their own touch to the growing popularity of glass chandeliers, Murano glassmakers began to add molded glass flowers and leaves to chandeliers that could extend up to eight feet wide!

While not eight feet wide, this Venetian chandelier at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, Scotland is an excellent example of the colored glass that became popular in the late 17th-early 18th centuries.

While not eight feet wide, this Venetian chandelier at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, Scotland is an excellent example of the colored glass that became popular in the late 17th-early 18th centuries.

The 17th century also ushered in the opulent style often associated with Versailles--French Baroque or le style Louis Quatorze. With an open birdcage frame of gilded bronze in a vase or lyre shape and decorations of shining cut rock crystals, this style was highly sought after among the royalty of Europe, from Charles II of England to Maria Theresa of Austria.

                                 French Baroque gilded bronze chandelier, available on 1stdibs

                                French Baroque gilded bronze chandelier, available on 1stdibs

The next two major developments in the glass chandelier industry came as a response to England's Glass Excise Act, which taxed glass by weight. Ireland was exempt from the tax, so many manufacturers moved their operations to locations like Waterford, which led to the growth of the world-renowned Waterford Glass House. Those who stayed in England resorted to cutting crystal drops from pieces of broken glass, which was taxed more cheaply, and strung them together like a tent, with a "bag" of more drops at the bottom--creating the tent-and-bag style:

The Glass Excise Act ended in 1835, around the time that the Industrial Revolution was transforming chandelier production. Mechanization allowed for faster and cheaper manufacturing, and a growing middle class meant there was a larger audience eager to show off their rising socioeconomic status. In particular, Daniel Swarovski's crystal cutting machine made it much more affordable to own diamond-like crystals, and launched an enterprise that is still around to this day!

Today, we can see that many of these old styles are still quite popular, such as Dutch brass-ball stem, French Baroque, and Georgian. Here at Architectural Antiques, we have a large collection of chandeliers that compliment a wide range of styles. Whether you're looking for Art Deco or Art Nouveau...

Colonial or Mid-Century Gothic...

         Mid-Century Gothic chandelier available in store!

         Mid-Century Gothic chandelier available in store!

...we've got the chandelier for you! In store or online, please Be Our Guest! 

Architectural Antiques and the Mystery of the Old Crate

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One of the things that we love about antiques is that each nick tells the story of the people who owned it before. When we're lucky enough, the previous owners leave a piece of themselves in the form of handwriting; however, the printed qualities can tell a lot about the time period from which it came too. This crate is a smorgasbord of typefaces with each one containing its own unique story. On this single crate, four different categories of typefaces can be identified: sans serif, script, stenciled serif, and slab serif. Before we dive in, let's go over the definition of each of the terms.

A serif is the line attached to the end of a letter's stroke. We like to think of them as the feet. The stenciled in numbers on the side of the crate as well as the "W.&A. GILBEY" are both examples of a serif typeface. However, they are different types of a serif with different histories. Stenciled type was used in the early 19th century by a small group of English engineers and surveyors to label their technical drawings before becoming more commonly used in the 20th century

The "W.&A. GILBEY" belongs in a subcategory of a serif known as a slab serif. This means that the serif has sharper corners and doesn't transition smoothly into the letter stroke as a regular serif does. The variation of this particular slab serif was designed in the mid-1800s. It's popularity died down in the 1920s until a revival in the 1950s.

Since the type that says "TEN YEARS OLD" doesn't have any serifs (or feet) attached to the letters, it's a san serif. The san serif typeface reached popularity in the early 1900s and reached its peak in the 1920s and 30s. The clarity and legibility from a distance made it popular for display uses.

Lastly, "They Royal" is an example of a script. More specifically, it's an example of a Spenserian script similar to the iconic Coca Cola and Ford logos. Spencerian was the standard cursive script taught in schools from the 1860s to 1920s and was common during this time period.

 Knowing the history of these typefaces can help pinpoint a time period from when the crate, or at the very least the type stamp on the crate, was designed. Taking all of these histories into consideration, a clearer image of the time frame comes to shape. At the very earliest, the stenciled type and script indicate mid-1800s, while the revival of the slab serif suggests 1950s at the latest. Once all of the overlapping time periods are considered, the time frame is narrowed down to the early 1900s.

Now let's compare our estimation with actual facts. W.&A. Gilbey was founded in 1857, which corresponds with the script and stencil. The company gained its stride and started expanding their wares as well as acquiring other businesses in the early 1900s. W.&A. Gilbey merged with United Wine Traders Ltd in 1962 and then changed owners 1972. The detective work was pretty spot on, don't you think?

 

A Letter from Arch Antiques' Summer Intern

 

If you follow Architectural Antiques, you've probably noticed that our blog sprang to life this summer. That would be because of me; Hi! I'm Beka Barski, the store's summer intern.

A little background on me: I'm a student at the University of Minnesota, studying interior design. Since I'm currently obsessed with modern rustic style, I'm always finding excuses to mix the "old" with the "new" (as you can see from my previous blog post topics). This obsession is what initially drew me to Arch Antiques. The store is jam-packed with countless antique treasures that can be paired wonderfully with modern pieces. 

Since that first day when I stared at the sheer quantity of antiques in awe, I have learned so much about the style, history, and importance of almost every one of them. It wasn't difficult either - you tend to get attached to certain pieces, and caught up in the nostalgia of it all.

As a result, I now find myself analyzing all interior decor I come across ("That pendant is so art deco. It might be a reproduction, but if not then it's circa 1920"). Even though I don't need all that information when I'm in a coffee shop or a library, I know it'll come in handy when I'm designing for studio projects, and eventually for clients.

I'm so lucky to have gained such knowledge and experience from my internship, and will miss being surrounded by beautiful antiques as I write blog posts or edit product photos. That being said, I feel as if I have no choice but to tribute my last post to my favorite antiques. Here are the pieces that have stolen my heart this summer:

 
 

Making an Entrance


The entrance of a home is your best opportunity to communicate your personality and style. It is the first part of your house that visitors will see, and therefore makes an important statement.

This is why the entrance door that you choose should speak to you as a homeowner. Are you open with your day-to-day activities, and wouldn't mind having more glass than solid material? Or do you like your privacy, and prefer as little glass as possible? Maybe you have a dramatic side, and find the prospect of a double-door entrance exciting. 

No matter who you are, there is an entrance door for you. Follow this guide to find the type of door that fits you and your home perfectly.


 
 
 

The Admired Stoop

 

This quartersawn entry should open into a home with formal introductions, followed by a cocktail party. The solid wood door demands respect and admiration, while the prairie style sidelights add color, transparency and interest. This entrance is for the proper entertainer; someone who wants neighbors to wonder what event they're hosting while preserving their privacy.


 
 

The Whimsical Port

 

This oak entry door expresses unique creativity through its stained glass, glass jewels, and intricate carvings. The owner of this door would have a sense of wonder about the world, and perhaps an art studio in some corner of their home. They would also look forward to seeing their visitors' faces framed by the gorgeous colors that outline the door's arched window, as well as the time of day when the sun would stream through the glass and casts the colors onto their walls.

 

 
 

The Dramatic Double Doors

 

The owner of this entrance door set would simply have to open both doors at once when greeting visitors. The detailed woodwork and beveled glass would catch the eye of anyone walking past this home, which is exactly the attention that the homeowner would expect. Additionally, the low windows would connect the outdoors with the indoors, allowing those inside to experience the excitement of the outside world from the comfort of the home.


 
 

The Open Door

 

This primarily glass front door belongs in a house set into the woods, where most visitors are expected, and privacy isn't a concern. The owner of this home would be a free spirit, living their life without worry of the outside world. Their home would be a retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle, bringing ease through natural surroundings.

 

Integrating Stained Glass Into Interiors


 

Stained glass began bringing color and light to interior spaces in 7th century AD, and continues to inspire designs to this day. Regardless of interior style, it has been repeatedly used as a focal point, or as a complement to its surrounding decor.

Integrating stained glass into interiors doesn't have to be challenging, but it often appears that way. There is the daunting task of finding a piece that works with your desired color scheme, and of course deciding on a location where the piece will shine – literally and figuratively.

In order to aid you in your stained glass design journey, we have found spaces that effectively added visual interest through stained glass. Check out these three vignettes that prove that any design can benefit from stained glass.

 

Traditional

The office of TreHus, an architecture and interior design firm, shows how a stained glass window allows a craftsman-inspired space to stay true to its style, while adding interest and function. The green tones in the window complement the cherry wood used throughout the space, while also adding depth to the neutral color palette. Additionally, the window allows sightlines between the conference room and lobby, without compromising privacy.

 

Traditional-Modern

This stairwell combines traditional architecture with a modern color scheme and materials. The gold and muted mint stained glass windows reinforce the traditional architecture, as well as repeating the colors in the flooring and the white trim. This particular integration of stained glass subtly ties together the differing aspects of the design, while still letting light into the space.

 

Modern

This modern, minimalistic home was once a church. Instead of removing the stained glass windows that appear throughout the structure, Linc Thelen Design designed around them, creating awe-inspiring vignettes. The color scheme for the home reflects the golds and greens seen in the consistent style of the stained glass windows. Their ornate designs, vibrant colors, and bold scale do not detract from the simplicity of the home, but rather add warmth and variation.

 

Browse our windows page to find stained glass windows for your space!