Whether a homeowner owns what would pass for a palace or one of those tiny little houses that are in vogue nowadays, nothing says class more than antique chandeliers. Their name is derived from a word meaning “to glisten,” and that is what they do, whether they’re made mostly of brass, lead crystal or colored Murano glass. Even chandeliers made out of wood or antlers have their own gleam. Chandeliers come in many shapes and sizes and can have can have all kinds of arrangements of arms, lights and other embellishments, but they all hang from the ceiling: smaller ones hung on the wall are called sconces.
How to Hang One
The oldest chandeliers were lit by candles that needed to be snuffed out one by one. Later, they were lit by gas. Now nearly all are lit by electricity and can come on and go off at the touch of a switch. There is no hard or fast rule for hanging a chandelier except it should be low enough to brightly light the space but not so low that a hanging ball or pendeloque blocks the view. Some interior decorators say a chandelier should clear the head of the tallest person in the household by a few inches. The height of the ceiling and the delicacy of the chandelier itself also come into play. A delicate chandelier can be hung a bit lower than a more robust Italian Renaissance chandelier made of elaborately carved, gilded and painted wood.
Types: Murano and Venetian Glass
Some of the more delicate looking chandeliers are made of Murano or Venetian glass. Some people find this glassware interchangeable, but Murano glass is a type of Venetian glass. It was and still is made by artisans on an island in the lagoon. Their craft was so secret that the glassmakers were not allowed to leave the city and faced the death penalty if they told outsiders how they did what they did. Even today the colors of Murano glass are unsurpassed.
Chandeliers made of Venetian or Murano glass not only have subtle colors of peach, green and blue but are informed more by nature than other types of chandeliers. They have elements that mimic leaves, stems, vines and flowers.
Some the most majestic chandeliers feature masses of glittering Baccarat crystal. They originated in France and are made both to decorate chandeliers and for high-end tableware. Chandelier crystals come in sparkling ropes, balls, pendeloques, baguettes and prisms. Sometimes all of these shapes are crowded and draped over the arms of the chandeliers for a look of jaw-dropping opulence. Another impressive chandelier has a patinaed iron frame hung with a wealth of crystal pendeloques and teardrops with top beads with bunches of rose quartz grapes tucked in between them. The iron has an interesting, pale pink-gray-blue patina and gives the chandelier an organic look.
No Crystal at All
There are chandeliers that don’t bother with crystals but are nearly as grand as those that do. They include a lovely, six-light silver-over-bronze chandelier with beautifully embossed curving arms and a bronze, French Empire chandelier with a canopy made of bronze feathers. Chains hang down from the canopy to hold the bronze and dark wood bottom bowl and its six lights.