"The term "chandelier" is from the 12th Century Old French world Chandelier, which evolved from an earlier, 10th century term chandelabre. That's not the end of the story though, because chandelabre came from the latin word candela, meaning candle.
They have a very old and grand history and have been used to grace the fine houses and mansions of the landed gentry and aristocrats of Europe for centuries.
Chandeliers add a fabulous touch of romantic distinction to any living room, bedroom or dining-room. I've even seen them used to great effect even in bathrooms. They work particularly well with French Provincial or Shabby Chic design elements.
Of course in the early days, pre-electricity, all chandeliers employed candles as a light source. The earliest were used in Medieval assembly halls, where light was required to cover a large area. They worked on a hoist mechanism, using a rope or chain suspended by a hook from the ceiling and could be raised or lowered to light the candles.
Modern reproductions of the 'Old European' Medieval style combine the feel and look of the old style with modern functionality. The Laura Lee design at right is created from hand forged iron, holding nine "candles". This would look wonderful hanging over a rustic wooden table.
By the 15th Century chandelier designs were becoming ever more complex and elaborate and were developing into a symbol of luxury and status. Not only were the chandeliers themselves expensive, but so was the cost of lighting them.
A rising wealthy merchant class meant that by the 18th century they were appearing in more and more homes. The style was changing too and instead of being made simply from wood orr iroon, elaborate cast metal and gilded wood versions were being produced.
With the invention of gas lighting and later electricity, the candles were replaced. Chandeliers could now become fixed ceiling features. They had come a long way from the crude but effective designs of the Medieval period and ever more elaborate designs were coming onto the market, including magnificent Bohemian crystal designs that illuminated rooms with a sparkling beauty.
In grand ballrooms and dining-rooms crystal chandeliers dripping with opulent elegance created a fabulous mood of luxurious warmth..like basking in jewelled sunlight.
These days chandeliers don't have to make a grand ballroom statement. The mini chandelier at right, by Minka Lavery is designed to fit into small spaces, such as above a desk or in a reading alcove or decorative nook.
The idea is to create an interesting, casual ambiance by using a traditionally elaborate decorative piece in unexpected ways.
Today's chandeliers come in an amazing variety of shapes and sizes, for every room and occasion....from the mini light to a huge overhanging chandelier. They blend the traditional stylistic designs of the past with contemporary features to create a romantically beautiful yet practical form of lighting.
Through it's long history all of its period transformations, the the chandelier has remained an object of beauty and elegance and has never gone out of style.