From Academic Kids

Chandelier in the Vice President's Ceremonial Office in the White House
Chandelier in the Vice President's Ceremonial Office in the White House

A chandelier is a ceiling-mounted fixture with two or more arms bearing lights. Modern chandeliers are often very ornate, containing dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass shapes to scatter light in complex, attractive patterns.

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Illustration of a medieval chandelier from King René's Tournament Book

The earliest chandeliers were used in medieval churches and abbeys to efficiently illuminate large halls. They generally took the form of a wooden cross with a number of spikes on which candles could be secured, the whole assembly being hoisted to a suitable height on a rope suspended from a hook once lit.

From the 15th century, more complex forms of chandeliers based on ring or crown designs began to become popular decorative features, found in palaces and the homes of the very wealthy. The fixture's popularity as a status symbol continued to grow. By the early 18th century, ornate cast brass forms with long, curved arms and many candles could be found in the homes of most of the merchant classes.

Developments in glassmaking in the 18th century allowed the cheaper production of lead crystal. The light-scattering properties of this highly refractive glass quickly became a popular addition to the form, leading to the Crystal Chandelier.

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A contemporary chandelier in the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

More complex and elaborate forms of chandelier continued to developed throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until the widespread introduction of first gas then electrical lighting devalued this traditional form of lighting's appeal.

Structurally, chandeliers may be much heavier than other ceiling light fixtures. Some may require special attachments to the ceiling and specially reinforced ceilings. Many do not require special supports and can be directly attached to the electrical box like any other fixture. Instead they specify that the electrical box be specially reinforced. This reinforcement can typically only be done at the time of the installation of the box. Subsequent installations of a chandelier may require extensive renovations.

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Towards the end of the 20th century, the chandelier is used more as a decorative focal point for a room and may not give any illumination. This 30ft high, blown glass, chandelier by Dale Chihuly is installed in the rotunda of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.



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