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:

 
 

Minimalist Color Schemes


 

In today's design field, less is more. Designers are opting for modest styles, cleaner lines, and fewer distracting decorations. Throughout this trend to simplify interior spaces, designers have also pared down on the number of colors they implement. Most commonly, this means that the color palette includes tints and tones of two or three colors, with occasional accents of another color.

This type of color scheme was recently used by LDK First Impressions, in a kitchen featuring our art deco pendants. The space primarily consists of black, white, and grey, with brown accents. The effect is a simple, yet cozy space for cooking and entertaining.

 
Photos courtesy of Jean Milton

Photos courtesy of Jean Milton

 

This kitchen is also an excellent example of how antiques can be integrated into modern designs. The pendants fit the color scheme, while their detailing mirrors the fun, patterned back splash.

As a tribute to the minimalist color scheme, we chose three of our light fixtures to serve as inspiration for three different color palettes. We then designed blank rooms, using these light fixtures and our antiques to create unique spaces. Keep reading to see the results!

 
 

Whiteout

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This little scene could be anything from an urban living area to quaint cafe seating. We pulled colors from our Sixties Rondure Fixtures, coming up with white and grey. While we love the monochromatic tones of our Soap Factory Industrial Pallet and Midcentury Stool, we felt that pops of greenery were necessary to give the space some life. 

 
 

Bumblebee

 

This traditional living room was inspired by our Six-Light Brass and Iron Gothic Chandelier, with its black and yellow form. Our Cast Iron Mantel visually connects the ceiling to the floor with the continuation of black iron. In the corner, our Decorative Privacy Screen brings the black and yellow together, while also making the yellow more prominent. The white Cast Iron Chair Set acts as an accent to the color scheme, offering a contrast to the rest of the pieces.

 
 

Toffee

 

The range of browns, tans, and whites seen in this study space are brought together by the hues in our Brass Sputnik Light. We would imagine this space belonging to a student who resides in a loft, with our Oak Desk and Oak Ladder Back Chair creating the perfect place to take notes, and our Burden Basket acting as aesthetically pleasing and convenient storage. The room is further embellished by our I.P. Frink Illuminated Mirror, and artwork such as our Hand Painted Advertising Window. Each of these pieces coordinates with the color scheme, while introducing its own particular tint or tone through their antique qualities.