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Chandeliers in the Hotel de la Marine (Paris) Interieur de l'Hotel de la Marine en fevrier 2014 - 21.jpg
Chandeliers in the Hôtel de la Marine (Paris)
Chandeliers in the Hotel de Bourvallais (Paris) Hotel de Bourvallais JP2009 5.jpg
Chandeliers in the Hôtel de Bourvallais (Paris)

A chandelier ( /ˌʃændəˈlɪər/ ; also known as girandole , candelabra lamp, or least commonly suspended lights) is a branched ornamental light fixture designed to be mounted on ceilings [1] or walls. [2] Chandeliers are often ornate, and normally use incandescent light bulbs, though some modern designs also use fluorescent lamps and recently LEDs.


Chandeliers in a large billiard hall 3-Cushion WC 2005-Venue 1.jpg
Chandeliers in a large billiard hall

Classic chandeliers have arrays of hanging crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light, while contemporary chandeliers assume a more minimalist design that does not contain prisms and illuminate a room with direct light from the lamps, sometimes also equipped with translucent glass covering each lamp. Modern chandeliers have a more modernized design that uses LEDs, and combines the elements of both classic and contemporary designs; some are also equipped with refractive crystal prisms or small mirrors.

Chandeliers are distinct from pendant lights, as they usually consist of multiple lamps and hang in branched frames, whereas pendant lights hang from a single cord and only contain one or two lamps with fewer decorative elements. Due to their size, they are often installed in hallways, living rooms, staircases, lounges, and dining rooms. However, miniature chandeliers also exist, which can be installed in smaller spaces such as bedrooms or small living spaces.

Chandeliers evolved from candelabra and were invented during the medieval period. They originally used, as their source of light candles, which remained in use until the 18th century, when gas lights, later superseded by electric lights, were invented.


The word chandelier was first known in the English language in the 1736, borrowed from the Modern French word chandelle meaning candle, which comes from the Latin candēla. [3] [4]

A chandelier in one of the Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal, India Chandelier in durgapandal.jpg
A chandelier in one of the Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal, India
One of the largest chandeliers ever produced, for the Al Ameen Mosque in Muscat (Oman), shortly before delivery Crystal Chandelier Al Ameen-Mosque (retouched).jpg
One of the largest chandeliers ever produced, for the Al Ameen Mosque in Muscat (Oman), shortly before delivery


An old brass chandelier with candles in Amsterdam's Portuguese Synagogue KroonluchterEsnogaAmsterdam.jpg
An old brass chandelier with candles in Amsterdam's Portuguese Synagogue
A medieval chandelier, from King Rene's Tournament Book, 1460 Medieval Illustration of Chandelier.jpg
A medieval chandelier, from King René's Tournament Book, 1460
housemaid, cleaning a chandelier with a 'prism trap', early 20th century homemuseum Stockholm Sweden Prismahav anvands i Stora salongen - Hallwylska museet - 86298.tif
housemaid, cleaning a chandelier with a 'prism trap', early 20th century homemuseum Stockholm Sweden
An advertisement for the Central Chandelier Company out of Toledo, Ohio in 1895 History and Institutions- with illustrations and sketches of banking, wholesale manufacturing and professional interests of Toledo, Ohio - DPLA - 92f742d33d4dcde003ea49375198e699 (page 60) (cropped).jpg
An advertisement for the Central Chandelier Company out of Toledo, Ohio in 1895

Chandeliers holding oil lamps were used in the Byzantine period, known as polycandela (singular polycandelon). [5] A later variation of the polycandelon took the shape of a lamp stand, placed on legs rather than hung by chains, some being known from the Seljuq realm and functioning as a prototype for the European chandelier, such as this example from the 12th-13th century. [6] A development of late antiquity and further evolving during the early Middle Ages, polycandela were used in places such as churches, synagogues, and aristocratic households and took the shape of a bronze or iron frame holding a varying number of globular or conical glass beakers provided with a wick and filled with oil. [5] [7]

The earliest candle chandeliers were used by the wealthy in medieval times; this type of chandelier could be moved to different rooms. [8] From the 15th century, more complex forms of chandeliers, based on ring or crown designs, became popular decorative features in palaces and homes of nobility, clergy and merchants. Their high cost made chandeliers symbols of luxury and status. Ivory chandeliers in the palace of the king of Mutapa, were depicted in 17th century paintings by Olfert Dapper. [9]

By the early 18th century, ornate cast ormolu forms with long, curved arms and many candles were in the homes of many in the growing merchant class. Neoclassical motifs became an increasingly common element, mostly in cast metals but also in carved and gilded wood. Chandeliers made in this style also drew heavily on the aesthetic of ancient Greece and Rome, incorporating clean lines, classical proportions and mythological creatures. [10] [11] Developments in glassmaking later allowed cheaper production of lead crystal, the light scattering properties of which quickly made it a popular addition to the form, leading to the cut glass chandelier, which was dominant from about 1750 until at least 1900.

During the 18th century, glass chandeliers were produced by Bohemians and Venetian glassmakers who were both masters in the art of making chandeliers. Bohemian style was largely successful across Europe and its biggest draw was the chance to obtain spectacular light refraction due to facets and bevels of crystal prisms.

As a reaction to this new taste, Italian glass factories in Murano created new kinds of artistic light sources. Since Murano glass was not suitable for faceting, typical work realized at the time in other countries where crystal was used, Venetian glassmakers relied upon the unique qualities of their glass. Typical features of a Murano chandelier are the intricate arabesques of leaves, flowers and fruits that would be enriched by coloured glass, made possible by the specific type of glass used in Murano. The soda glass (famed for its clarity) that they worked with was unique and contrasted with other types of glass produced in the world at that time. Great skill and time was required to twist and shape a chandelier precisely.

This new type of chandelier was called ciocca (literally "bouquet of flowers"), for the characteristic decorations of glazed polychrome flowers. The most sumptuous consisted of a metal frame covered with small elements in blown glass, transparent or colored, with decorations of flowers, fruits and leaves, while simpler models had arms made with unique pieces of glass. Their shape was inspired by an original architectural concept: the space on the inside is left almost empty, since decorations are spread all around the central support, distanced from it by the length of the arms. One of the common uses of the huge Murano chandeliers was the interior lighting of theatres and rooms in important palaces. [12]

In the mid-19th century, as gas lighting caught on, branched ceiling fixtures called gasoliers (a portmanteau of gas and chandelier) were produced, and many candle chandeliers were converted. By the 1890s, with the appearance of electric light, some chandeliers used both gas and electricity. As distribution of electricity widened, and supplies became dependable, electric-only chandeliers became standard. Another portmanteau word, electrolier , was coined for these, but nowadays they are most commonly called chandeliers. Some are fitted with bulbs shaped to imitate candle flames, for example those shown below in Epsom and Chatsworth, or with bulbs containing a shimmering gas discharge. [13]

The world's largest English chandelier (by Hancock Rixon & Dunt and probably F. & C. Osler) [14] is in the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul. It has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tons. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of British and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has balusters of Baccarat crystal.

More complex and elaborate chandeliers continued to be developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, but the widespread introduction of gas and electricity had devalued the chandelier's appeal as a status symbol.

Toward the end of the 20th century, chandeliers were often used as decorative focal points for rooms, and often did not illuminate.

Glossary of terms

Adam style
A Neoclassical style, light, airy and elegant chandelier – usually English.
The light-bearing part of a chandelier also sometimes known as a branch.
Arm plate
The metal or wooden block placed on the stem, into which the arms slot.
A bag of crystal drops formed by strings hanging from a circular frame and looped back into the center underneath, associated especially with early American crystal and Regency style crystal chandeliers.
A turned wood or moulded stem forming the axis of a chandelier, with alternating narrow and bulbous parts of varying widths.
A glass drop with a hole drilled right through.
A dish fitted just below the candle nozzle, designed to catch drips of wax. Also known as a drip pan.
Another name for the light-bearing part of a chandelier, also known as an arm.
Not to be confused with chandeliers, candelabra are candlesticks, usually branched, designed to stand on tables, or if large, the floor.
A cross made from two wooden beams with one or more cups and prickets at each end for securing candles.
Candle nozzle
The small cup into which the end of the candle is slotted.
An inverted shallow dish at the top of a chandelier from which festoons of beads are often suspended, lending a flourish to the top of the fitting.
An arrangement where the central stem supporting arms and decorations is replaced by a metal structure leaving the centre clear for candles and further embellishments.
Another term for crown-style chandelier.
A circular chandelier reminiscent of a crown, usually of gilded metal or brass, and often with upstanding decorative elements.
Essentially a traditional marketing term for lead glass with a chemical content that gives it special qualities of clarity, resonance and softness, making it especially suitable for use in cut glass. Some chandeliers, as at the Palace of Versailles are actually made of cut rock crystal (clear quartz), which cut glass essentially imitates.
Drip pan
The dish fitted just below the candle nozzle, designed to catch drips of wax. Know also as a bobèche.
A small piece of glass usually cut into one of many shapes and drilled at one end so that it can be hung from the chandelier as a pendant with a brass pin. A chain drop is drilled at both ends so that a series can be hung together to form a necklace or festoon.
Also known as Flemish, a style of brass chandelier with a bulbous baluster and arms curving down around a low hung ball.
An arrangement of glass drops or beads draped and hung across or down a glass chandelier, or sometimes a piece of solid glass shaped into a swag. Also known as a garland.
The final flourish at the very bottom of the stem. Some Venetian glass chandeliers have little finials hanging from glass rings on the arms.
A circular metal support for arms, usually on a regency-styles or other chandelier with glass pieces. Also known as a ring.
Montgolfière chandelier
Chandelier with a rounded bottom, like an inverted hot air balloon, named after the Montgolfier brothers, the early French balloonists.
The process by which a pressed glass piece is shaped by being blown into a mould.
Neoclassical style chandelier
Glass chandelier featuring many delicate arms, spires and strings of ovals rhomboids or octagons.
Gothic candelabrum chandelier hung from centres of Greek Orthodox cathedrals' domes.
A straight, many-sided drop.
Regency style chandelier
A larger chandelier with a multitude of drops. Above a hoop, rises strings of beads that diminish in size and attach at the top to form a canopy. A bag, with concentric rings of pointed glass, forms a waterfall beneath. The stem is usually completely hidden.
Soda glass
A type of glass used typically in Venetian glass chandeliers. Soda glass remains "plastic" for longer when heated, and can therefore be shaped into elegant curving leaves and flowers. Refracts light poorly and is normally fire polished.
A tall spike of glass, round in section or flat sided. To which arms and decorative elements may be attached, made from wood, metal or glass.
A tent shaped structure on the upper part of a glass chandelier where necklaces of drops attach at the top to a canopy and at the bottom to a larger ring.
A glass from the island of Murano, Venice but usually used to describe any chandelier in Venetian style.
Waterfall or wedding cake
Concentric rings of icicle drops suspended beneath the hoop or plate.

See also

Related Research Articles

Electric light A device that produces light from electricity

An electric light is a device that produces visible light from electric power. It is the most common form of artificial lighting and is essential to modern society, providing interior lighting for buildings and exterior light for evening and nighttime activities. In technical usage, a replaceable component that produces light from electricity is called a lamp. Lamps are commonly called light bulbs; for example, the incandescent light bulb. Lamps usually have a base made of ceramic, metal, glass, or plastic, which secures the lamp in the socket of a light fixture. The electrical connection to the socket may be made with a screw-thread base, two metal pins, two metal caps or a bayonet cap.

Candle Wick embedded in solid flammable substance

A candle is an ignitable wick embedded in wax, or another flammable solid substance such as tallow, that provides light, and in some cases, a fragrance. A candle can also provide heat or a method of keeping time.

Stage lighting Craft of lighting at performances

Stage lighting is the craft of lighting as it applies to the production of theater, dance, opera, and other performance arts. Several different types of stage lighting instruments are used in this discipline. In addition to basic lighting, modern stage lighting can also include special effects, such as lasers and fog machines. People who work on stage lighting are commonly referred to as lighting technicians or lighting designers.

Incandescent light bulb Electric light with a wire filament heated until it glows

An incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescent light globe is an electric light with a wire filament heated until it glows. The filament is enclosed in a glass bulb with a vacuum or inert gas to protect the filament from oxidation. Current is supplied to the filament by terminals or wires embedded in the glass. A bulb socket provides mechanical support and electrical connections.

Murano series of islands in the Venetian Lagoon, Italy

Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It lies about 1.5 kilometres north of Venice and measures about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) across with a population of just over 5,000. It is famous for its glass making. It was once an independent comune, but is now a frazione of the comune of Venice.

Lantern Portable lighting device

A lantern is an often portable source of lighting, typically featuring a protective enclosure for the light source — historically usually a candle or a wick in oil, and often a battery-powered light in modern times — to make it easier to carry and hang up, and make it more reliable outdoors or in drafty interiors. Lanterns may also be used for signaling, as torches, or as general light-sources outdoors.

Lead glass

Lead glass, commonly called crystal, is a variety of glass in which lead replaces the calcium content of a typical potash glass. Lead glass contains typically 18–40% lead(II) oxide (PbO), while modern lead crystal, historically also known as flint glass due to the original silica source, contains a minimum of 24% PbO. Lead glass is often desirable for a variety of uses due to its clarity.

Gas lighting Type of artificial light

Gas lighting is production of artificial light from combustion of a gaseous fuel, such as hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, propane, butane, acetylene, ethylene, coal gas or natural gas.

Sconce (light fixture) Type of light fixture

A sconce is a type of light fixture that is fixed to a wall. The light is usually, but not always, directed upwards and outwards, rather than down. The sconce is a very old form of fixture, historically used with candles and oil lamps. Modern fittings are more often called wall lights or wall lamps for similar terms, especially if the light source is wholly covered by glass.

A torchère, also known as a torch lamp or floor lamp, is a lamp with a tall stand of wood or metal. Originally, torchères were candelabra, usually with two or three lights. When it was first introduced in France towards the end of the 17th century the torchère mounted one candle only, and when the number was doubled or tripled the improvement was regarded almost as a revolution in the lighting of large rooms.

Lampshade Decorative or functional shade placed over the light source of a lamp

A lampshade is a fixture that covers the lightbulb on a lamp to diffuse the light it emits. Lampshades can be made out of a wide variety of materials like paper, glass, fabric or stone. Usually conical or cylindrical in shape, lampshades can be found on floor, desk, tabletop, or suspended lamps. The term can also apply to the glass hung under many designs of ceiling lamp. Beyond its practical purpose, significant emphasis is also usually given to decorative and aesthetic features. A lamp shade also serves to "shade" human eyes from the direct glare of the light bulbs used to illuminate the lamp. Some lamp shades are also lined with a hard-backed opaque lining, often white or gold, to reflect as much light as possible through the top and bottom of the shade while blocking light from emitting through the walls of the shade itself. In other cases, the shade material is deliberately decorative so that upon illumination it may emphasize a display of color and light emitting through the shade surface itself.

Venetian glass Glassmaking tradition from Venice, Italy

Venetian glass is glassware made in Venice, which for several centuries has meant on the island of Murano near the city. Traditionally it is made with a soda-lime "metal" and is typically elaborately decorated, with various "hot" glass-forming techniques, as well as gilding, enamel, or engraving.

Light fixture Electrical device with an electric lamp

A light fixture, light fitting, or luminaire is an electrical device containing an electric lamp that provides illumination. All light fixtures have a fixture body and one or more lamps. The lamps may be in sockets for easy replacement—or, in the case of some LED fixtures, hard-wired in place.


A candelabra or candelabrum is a candle holder with multiple arms.

Tealight Type of candle

A tealight is a candle in a thin metal or plastic cup so that the candle can liquefy completely while lit. They are typically small, circular, usually wider than their height, and inexpensive. Tealights derive their name from their use in teapot warmers, but are also used as food warmers in general, e.g. fondue.

Holiday lighting technology has been subject to considerable development and variation since the replacement of candles by electric lights. While originally used during the Christmas holidays as Christmas lights, modern electric light arrays have become popular around the world in many cultures and are used both during religious festivals and for other purposes unconnected to any festivities.

Deck prism

A deck prism is a prism inserted into the deck of a ship to provide light down below.

Pauly & C. – Compagnia Venezia Murano

Pauly & C. - Compagnia Venezia Murano is one of the most ancient glass factory of Murano: it was founded more than one hundred and forty years ago. This company produces glass art, most notably Roman murrine, mosaics and chandeliers.

Mosque lamp

Mosque lamps of enamelled glass, often with gilding, survive in considerable numbers from the Islamic art of the Middle Ages, especially the 13th and 14th centuries, with Cairo in Egypt and Aleppo and Damascus in Syria the most important centres of production. They are oil lamps, usually with a large round bulbous body rising to a narrower waist, above which the top section is flared. There is usually a foot so they can be placed on a surface, but they were normally used suspended by chains that went through a number of loops on the outside of the body. They were used to light mosques and other buildings in mosque complexes, in large spaces in groups hanging from a circular metal frame. The circular frames continue to be used in many mosques today, but with plain or frosted glass lamps for electric lighting.

Cut glass Glass with geometrical incised patterns

Cut glass or cut-glass refers historically to glass shaped by grinding or drilling techniques applied as a secondary stage to a piece of glass made by conventional processes such as glassblowing. In fact today, the glass is often mostly or entirely shaped in the initial process by using a mould, or even imitated in clear plastic; traditional hand-cutting continues, but is a much more expensive product. Today the term refers as much to a style of decorating glass as to the manufacturing process; on vessels the style typically uses furrowed faces at angles to each other in complicated patterns, while pieces for lighting are cut with flat or curved facets all over.


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