The English Antique Chandelier
England was the first country to produce Glass chandeliers of high quality. In Europe, chandeliers originally were made in small cottage industries, but in England, a ban in 1615 on using wood to produce glass led to more professional industries being set up near water. This, so that coal, sand and chemicals could be used. A strict apprentice scheme was the result - and therefore a higher quality of workmanship.
The first glass chandeliers were based on the designs of Flemish Chandeliers and consisted of a central stem with arms emanating from a receiver bowl. The Regency "tent" style appeared in about 1790 and had a frame with chains under a central rosette. Festoons of drops ran from the rosette down to the frame and often a 'bag' of drops hung beneath.
As oil replaced candle for lighting in the early 1800s, later chandeliers substituted oil lamps for candle sconces. Later in the century, gas and finally electricity became possible fuels for lighting. The Victorian age saw many fine quality chandeliers from a number of prominent makers. By contrast, Continental chandeliers were generally considered inferior, the glass being less pure and less in quantity, with many designs centring on an ormulu frame.
Manufacturers and Styles
The documentation of English chandeliers and their makers was poor until the last quarter of the 18th Century. Makers did not make glass but bought blanks, from which they cut drops. The work was not signed or stamped, and so bills or records, of which there are few, are the only way of attributing work. Of this period, William Parker is the most prolific documented manufacturer. Other prominent manufacturers include Thomas Betts and Jerome Johnson.
By the 19th Century, several 'manufacturers' were documented, but the term manufacturer was widely used to include all related workers, including sellers, and did not mean that they necessarily made chandeliers. The more famous English Manufacturers of the period include F and C Osler, Perry & Co and Henry Greene. The chandelier became a must-have decorative item for many houses.
G Perry, the successor to Parker, was the major manufacturer of the first half of the 19th Century. However Perry and Co continued to manufacture chandeliers into the 20th century. Specialities of the Perry chandelier are moulded drip pans while some chandeliers feature sculptural glass and walls of prisms. The output of the manufacturer was varied but the chandelier style considered to epitomise the Perry chandelier has long stems rising from the receiver, with rope pattern arms.
F and C Osler were the major manufacturers of the second half of the century. With the advent of gas, chandeliers were manufactured with hollow arms and were suitable for either gas or candles. Osler made several extremely large chandeliers and these were often garnished with Oslers' own elaborate designed drops.
Other European Chandeliers
The earliest French chandeliers were made by metal workers and decorated with lead crystal, the main element of the chandelier being metal. Later glass pendants imported from Bohemia were substituted, and some were moulded and some cut. Glass was not considered an important material until the 1800s. Some fine tent chandeliers were produced during the Napoleonic era. The best-known quality manufacturer of French chandeliers is Baccarat, who started to work with lead crystal in 1820. As in England, prolific manufacturing took place during the 19th Century; the typical French glass chandelier has more visible and usually gilded metalwork, with often beaded strings.
Venetian Murano glass chandeliers were first produced in about 1700. The island had been manufacturing glass since the 14th century. The typical Murano chandelier is decorated with coloured glass flowers, stems and leaves. The Murano style became popular in Europe in the 19th century when other manufacturers, to include Osler, produced chandeliers in Murano style. Chandeliers of notable quality were produced in Sweden and Russia from around 1790 to 1850. Manufacture had been inspired by the style of the Regency tent chandelier. Both countries had quality glass manufacturers. Coloured glass was produced, as well as plain in Russia. All the glasshouses used foreign workers so unless there is provenance, it is difficult to determine the exact origin of Baltic chandeliers.