CHANDELIER, a frame of metal, wood, crystal, glass or china, pendent from roof or ceiling for the purpose of holding lights. The word is French, but the appliance has lost its original significance of a candle-holder, the chandelier being now chiefly used for gas and electric lighting. Clusters of hanging lights were in use as early as the 14th century, and appear originally to have been almost invariably of wood. They were, however, so speedily ruined by grease that metal was gradually subsituted, and fine and comparatively early examples in beaten iron, brass, copper and even silver are still extant. Throughout the 17th century the hanging candle-holder of brass or bronze was common throughout northern Europe, as innumerable pictures and engravings testify. In the great periods of the art of decoration in France many magnificent chandeliers were made by Boulle, and at a later date by Gouthière and Thomire and others among the extraordinarily clever fondeurs-ciseleurs of the second half of the 18th century. The chandelier in rock crystal and its imitations had come in at least a hundred years before their day, and continued in favour to the middle of the 19th century, or even somewhat later. It reached at last the most extreme elaboration of banality, with ropes of pendants and hanging faceted drops often called lustres. When many lights were burning in one of these chandeliers an effect of splendour was produced that was not out of place in a ballroom, but the ordinary household varieties were extremely ugly and inartistic. The more purely domestic chandelier usually carries from two to six lights. The rapidly growing use of electricity as an illuminating medium and the preference for smaller clusters of lights have, however, pushed into the background an appliance which had grown extremely commonplace in design, and had become out of character with modern ideas of household decoration.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)