Dark Castles And Bright Lights: The Evolution Of The Chandelier

A chandelier light fixture dangling in an entrance hall is considered as a symbol of elegance. chandelier light fixtures have a long history and humble beginnings. The development into a symbol of status took centuries. The original chandeliers were simple functionary fixtures that could be found in huts, hovels and taverns. They were plain and spread the light. Today chandeliers are made in a wide range of materials, sizes, and functions. From basic lumber arms above a rough hewn pine table to intricate iron and crystal structures weighing tons. A humble fixture has become a symbol of affluence.

It’s a moonless winter night on the rutted lane. The horse and cloaked traveler are tired and hungry. The castle by the river is still half a days ride by horse. The hour would be far to advanced to meet with the noble man, the knights and guards wouldn’t let him pass until morning. All the excuse he need to spend a night at the Inn of The Barking Pig. The stranger saunters into an open room in the Tavern with a fire burning at either end. He selects a table in the center of the room, the crowds are gathered around the fire and he’d prefer eating by himself. He a velvet pouch of crystal beside him and calls for stew and ale. Hanging above the table are two slats of wood forming a cross. Nails are driven through the ends and candles, or chandelle as they are called in French, are impaled. The boards are scared and burnt by the candles. His meal is placed before him, just in time for a stream of wax to plummet into the bowl. The man laughs thinking this is a positive sign.

The next morning he arrives at the castle. He presents a letter to the guard and is led into a waiting room. He is informed that the owner wants the castle well lighted at night. The Noble man is displeased with the dim light cast by his existing candle fixtures and wants something more elaborate, something similar to the Kings chandelier in the great ball room of the castle on the hill. The man nods and opens his bag of crystals. The crystals he says, will refract the light. He sets about shaping iron and hanging crystal. The pulleys are set in place and the chandelier is attached. When the sun sets the candles are lit and the iron ring of candles and crystals is raised high into the hall. It dances with light and the noble man is very pleased. He pays a lot of silver.

In the 1700’s lead crystal was developed, making the cost of a chandelier more affordable and improving the quality of light. With the middle class capable of affording a chandelier, the upper class began designing more and more elaborate crystal chandeliers. Chandeliers became a status symbol and the amount of crystal, the size, and the weight were all important displays of affluence. With the introduction of gas, and later electricity, the functionality of the chandelier was reduced.

Today, chandeliers continue to be used as an ornamental piece that can contribute light. They continue to retain a certain affluent vibe. In fact, in an Oman mosque there is a chandelier that weighs 8.5 tons, is five stories high and as wide as a city block. It would be difficult to believe that it was built just for its ability to light the Mosque. Chandeliers have transformed from simple emitters of light, to major symbols of affluence.

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