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A chandelier is a branched decorative ceiling-mounted light fixture with two or more arms bearing lights. Chandeliers are often ornate, containing dozens of lamp and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light.


The earliest candle chandeliers were used in medieval places of assembly. They generally took the form of a wooden cross with a number of spikes on which candles could be secured, the whole assembly being hoisted to a suitable height on a rope or chain suspended from a hook.

From the 15th century, more complex forms of chandeliers based on ring or crown designs began to become popular decorative features, found in palaces and homes of the nobility, clergy and merchant class. The high cost of night time illumination made the chandelier a symbol of luxury and status. By the early 18th century, ornate cast ormolu forms with long, curved arms and many candles could be found in the homes of much of the growing merchant class. Neoclassical motifs became an increasingly common element, mostly in cast metals but also in carved and gilded wood. Developments in glassmaking in the 18th century allowed the cheaper production of lead crystal. The light-scattering properties of this highly refractive glass quickly became a popular addition to the form, leading to the crystal chandelier.

In the nineteenth century, as gas light became a source of illumination, branched ceiling fixtures were produced, and the term gasolier, a portmanteau of gas and chandelier, was frequently used. Gas illuminated chandeliers appeared in the mid-19th century, and many candle chandeliers were converted to gas. By the 1890s, and the appearance of electricity for illumination, chandeliers were produced that used both gas and electricity. As distribution of electricity became wider, and the supply dependable, fixtures wired only for electricity became standard.

The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, is located in the Dolmabahçe Palacemarker (Istanbulmarker). The chandelier has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tons. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has bannisters of Baccarat crystal.

More complex and elaborate forms of chandelier continued to developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until the widespread introduction of first gas then electrical lighting devalued this traditional form of lighting's appeal.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the chandelier is used more as a decorative focal point for a room and may not give any illumination.

One famous chandelier is the chandelier in the Opera Garniermarker which in the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom of the Opera is crashed by the Phantom.


Image:Ceremonial hall Dolmabahce March 2008 pano2b.jpg|The chandelier in the Dolmabahçe Palacemarker is located in the Muayede Salonu (Ceremonial Hall)Image:MunicipalHouseChand.JPG|Art Nouveau style chandelier, c. 1910, the Municipal Housemarker, Prague, Czech RepublicImage:RedRoomChandelier.jpg|c. 1805 36-light gilded wood French Empire chandelier in the Red Room of the White HousemarkerImage:StockholmCityHallChand.JPG|c. 1920 chandelier, Stockholm City Hallmarker, Stockholm, SwedenImage:vshECchandelier.JPG|Electrified gaslight chandelier, ormolu, bronze, and glass, c. 1858, by Cornelius and Baker, Executive Chamber, the Vermont State Housemarker, Montpelier, VermontImage:H+Mchandelier.JPG|Contemporary chandelier of rock crystal, by Herzog and de Meuron installed at the Walker Art Centermarker, Minneapolis, MinnesotaImage:Chandelier q.jpg|Chandelier in the Galt House in Louisville, KentuckyImage:Empire4light.JPG|c. 1920 French candle chandelierImage:Grand chandelier NIII Louvre.jpg|A Neo-Baroque, French Second Empire chandelier. The Apartment of Napoleon III, Musée du Louvremarker (Palais du Louvremarker), ParisImage:VandA Rotunda.jpg| high, blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly. Main entrance of Victoria and Albert MuseummarkerImage:Design MAP Expo.jpg|Contemporary chandelier at Design MAP ExpoImage:Sedlec-Ossuary.jpg|Chandelier of bones and skulls, Sedlec Ossuarymarker, Czech Republicmarker

Image:Contemporary Crystal Chandelier Philazlighting.jpg|Ultra Modern Crystal Chandelier in a Lighting Design Gallery in Asia

Glossary of terms

Adam styleA neoclassical style, light, airy and elegant chandelier - usually English.

ArmThe light-bearing part of a chandelier also sometimes know as a branch.

Arm PlateThe metal or wooden block placed on the stem, into which the arms slot.

BagA bag of crystal drops formed by strings hanging from a circular frame and looped back into the centre underneath, associated especially with early American crystal and regency style crystal chandeliers.

BalusterA turned wood or moulded stem forming the axis of a chandelier, with alternating narrow and bulbous parts of varying widths.

BeadA glass drop with a hole drilled right through.

BobecheA dish fitted just below the candle nozzle, designed to catch drips of wax. Also known as a drip pan.

BranchAnother name for the light-bearing part of a chandelier, also known as an arm.

CandelabraNot to be confused with chandeliers, candelabras are candlesticks, usually branched, designed to stand on tables, or if large, the floor.

CandlebeamA cross made form two wooden beams with one or more cups and prickets at each end for securing candles.

Candle nozzleThe small cup into which the end of the candle is slotted

CanopyAn 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.

CageAn arrangement where the central stem supporting arms and decorations is replaced by a metal structure leaving the centre clear for candles and further embellishments.

CoronaAnother term for crown-style chandelier

CrownA circular chandelier reminiscent of a crown, usually of gilded metal or brass, and often with upstanding decorative elements.

CrystalGlass with a lead content that gives it special qualities of clarity, resonance and softness – making it especially suitable for cutting. Also known as lead crystal.

Drip PanThe dish fitted just below the candle nozzle, designed to catch drips of wax. Know also as a bobeche.

DropA 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 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.

DutchAlso known as Flemish, a style of brass chandelier with a bulbous baluster and arms curving down around a low hung ball.

FestoonAn 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.

FinialThe final flourish at the very bottom of the stem. Some Venetian glass chandeliers have little finials hanging from glass rings on the arms.

HoopA circular metal support for arms, usually on a regency-styles or other chandelier with glass pieces. Also known as a ring

MouldedThe process by which a glass piece is shaped by being blown into a mould (rather than being cut)

Neoclassical Style ChandelierGlass chandelier featuring many delicate arms, spires and strings of beads.

PrismA straight, many sided drop

Regency Style ChandelierA larger chandelier with a multitude of drops. Above a hoop rise 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 GlassA 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.

SpireA tall spike of glass, round in section or flat sided. To which arms and decorative elements may be attached, made form wood, metal or glass.

TentA 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.

VenetianA glass from the island of Muranomarker, Venice but usually used to describe any chandelier in Venetian style.

WaterfallConcentric rings of icicle drops suspended beneath the hoop or plate.

See also


  1. The image is provided by
  • Abbott James A., and Elaine M. Rice. Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration. Van Nostrand Reinhold: 1998. ISBN 0-442-02532-7.
  • Katz, Cheryl and Jeffrey. Chandeliers. Rockport Publishers: 2001. ISBN 978-1564968050.
  • McCaffety, Kerri. The Chandelier Through the Centuries. Vissi d'Arte Books: 2007. ISBN 978-0970933652.
  • Parissien, Steven. Regency Style. Phaidon: 1992. ISBN 0-7148-3454-8.

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