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! 

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:

 
 

Designing with Architectural Antiques


 

Even if you're a visual person, it can still be difficult to envision what designing with antiques would look like, especially within a more modern setting. That's why we have created three styled vignettes to demonstrate how antiques can be incorporated in a fresh, aesthetically pleasing way. Take a look below to get inspiration for your next design!

 

A Rustic Romantic Nook

We would imagine these elements to be a part of a quintessential breakfast nook, or a small eating area off of a kitchen. The industrial base table and oak benches perfectly balance the light distressed shiplap and white french doors. While the contrast of those elements makes the space seem more rustic-industrial, the ornate French chandelier adds a softer touch, acting as a romantic focal point by introducing curvilinear lines to the space. This type of interior style is perfect for those who want to combine modern, traditional, and rustic design.

 

A Bohemian Living Space

This eclectic room mixes metals, neutrals, and natural elements to create a cozy place to relax or entertain. Purely functional pieces, such as the chrome and leather chairs, provide context for the space's purpose. On the other hand, pieces such as the rustic work bench and library ladder add to the space's aesthetic appeal while also serving as storage or display. The combination of these antiques would appeal to those who want a relaxed, yet trendy living area.

 

A Retro Bathroom

If you're obsessed with color and pattern, then maybe you should go this retro route. Every element adds flair and character as only antiques can, while still appealing to modern design trends. The clean lines of the sink beautifully balance the ornamentation of the tub and globe pendant, and the fun faucet handles add a classic touch.

 

Browse our product page for more antiques for your space!


 

How to Find The Right Hanging Height For Your Chandelier


 

Finding the "right" chandelier for your dining room, kitchen, or living room can be a daunting, time-consuming (but fun!) process. With all the options out there; the different styles, materials, designs, colors... how do you choose?! Well, the first step is to stop by Architectural Antiques in Northeast Minneapolis and have a look through our extensive collection of antique chandeliers and lighting fixtures until, eventually, you find that perfect match for your industrial kitchen or for your Victorian dining room.  

Once you have your unique, one-of-a-kind chandelier from Architectural Antiques, you realize that you do not know exactly where to hang it. How high is too high? How low is too low? Does it depend on the size or the style of the chandelier? All you want is to just get your new fixture properly installed and hanging up as soon as possible so that all of your friends can come over and gawk at your amazing interior design skills.

Don't fret, finding the proper hanging height for your chandelier can be easier than you think, especially if you follow the simple guidelines and suggestions shown in the diagram below, for where to hang your chandelier above your dining room or kitchen table.

 
 

Further examples using various lighting pieces currently in our store:

These candle-style chandeliers are great examples of chandeliers that should not be placed too close to the ceiling, as it might look strange from an aesthetic standpoint, and could also be a potential fire hazard. These chandeliers, and ones similar to them, may serve better being hung lower and closer to the table's surface anyways, as their lights are facing up, instead of down towards the table, and therefore can better illuminate the space if hung lower.

 

These smaller chandeliers are great examples of lighting fixtures that should be hung lower and closer to the table's surface, for various reasons. Because of their smaller size and simple, geometric designs, they can have a greater presence and significant design impact in the room if they are hung lower, instead of hanging up close to the ceiling, where they may not stand out as much. They also can more effectively illuminate the space if hung lower.

 

Larger, more elaborate chandeliers can be hung higher, and further away from the table's surface.  Due to their large size, dramatic design, bright colors, and overall extravagant presence, they can hang higher and closer to the ceiling as they will still make a significant impact on the room as the main focal point, without overwhelming the space. Also, because of their larger size, they generally have stronger lighting ability, so they can hang higher and still effectively illuminate the space.

 

Remember: the best way to find the proper hanging height for your light is to test it out and try different options to see what works best for your individual, unique situation!