Many home decorators like to implement their visions from the top to the bottom of a room, starting with the ceiling. The chandelier has been used as decoration for centuries. These beautiful fixtures function on two levels, as both a decorative piece and a source of light. They have often been seen as a symbol of status, due to their potential for ornate design and their history of being used to light and decorate castles and palaces. Etymologically, the word ‘chandelier’ comes from the Latin word candelabrum, a word that is derived from the Latin candela, meaning candle.
It is believed that the first chandelier was introduced during the medieval era as a decoration and lighting source for the wealthy. Originally, the lighting fixtures consisted of simple wooden crosses with spikes on them, to which candles could be secured and replaced as needed. Then as now, the fixtures were hoisted to their ideal height by a rope or chain. By the fifteenth century, chandeliers had become far more complex and ornate, and were often based on a design that emulated a ring or a crown of some sort. In addition to their use by the nobility, the fixtures were also popular with clergy and merchants. Their high cost made them a symbol of status for the well-to-do.
The more modern forms of chandelier lighting were introduced during the 18th century. It is around this time that the design evolved to feature lights branching out in arcs, the style with which modern people are most familiar. Advances in technology such as glass making, gas lanterns, and the electric light bulb brought about new developments in the design and features. However, these technological advancements also meant that these formerly utilitarian sources of light came to be designed and regarded more and more as a source of decoration and less as an actual light source. With the widespread proliferation of gas and electric light, these hanging lights became less functional and lost much of their popularity within noble circles of the time. Today there are many chandeliers that serve only as decoration, and are unable to produce any light at all.
Despite these changes, the overall popularity of this beloved decoration and light fixture continues to this day. Even though they are less popular as a means of lighting indoor spaces, there are still plenty to be found. In all likelihood, the chandelier will continue to serve as a source of illumination and aesthetic, especially for homeowners who want to decorate with a sense of elegance and of pre-modern style.