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So many lighting fixtures with disparate features fall under the name ‘chandelier’ that choosing one can be a confusing venture. In general terms, a chandelier is a light source mounted to the ceiling with at least two arms to hold the actual lights. Most commonly, the sources of illumination are light bulbs or electric candles, but they can also be wax candles or gaslights.
There are many varieties of these captivating luminaries. Crystal chandeliers are perhaps the most emblematic type, often employing cut glass, dangling from the arms and sometimes suspended in swags between the mounting area and the arms to reflect light and create a shimmering effect. Elaborate crystal fixtures on the grand scale were considered very chic in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Since then, the crystal chandelier has become an accessory in opulent hotels and residences worldwide. Classic and romantic, a crystal chandelier is ideal for those who seek elegance and old-world charm.
Beaded and shell chandeliers are similar in spirit to their crystal counterparts, but use beads or shells instead of crystals. The capiz shell, with its mother of pearl finish, is a favorite element in contemporary designs. A beaded or shell chandelier evokes a similar glistening femininity to the crystal variety, but tones down its formality and reduces its weight which is a significant feature, considering the laborious and risky installation that can accompany a heavy crystal chandelier.
Metal chandeliers are simple and stately with several streamlined arms leading to lights that are often either left unadorned, placed under lampshades or inside glass cups. The arms are often s-shaped or otherwise curved, though modern designs favor more geometric lines. Popular finishes include brass, brushed nickel and wrought iron. These classic light fixtures are a staple of decorating and there are styles to cater to any home’s décor.
Murano glass chandeliers were originally created only in the glass-blowing mecca of Murano, Italy but nowadays the name Murano is used more to denote a style than a place of origin. These chandeliers have curvy, tubular forms made entirely of blown glass; floral motifs are frequently incorporated into the designs. Murano glass can be found in many colors--the bright transparency allows a fixture's light and hue to play off of each other and add interest to a room.
Mission chandeliers are an offshoot of the Arts and Crafts style. These chandeliers are characterized by a certain boxiness: often, a central metal ceiling mount branches out to several short, angular arms that hold squared, downward facing milk-glass lampshades. The lampshades are frequently embellished with metal detailing or stained glass segments.
Antler chandeliers are made from the antlers of a deer, an elk or, on occasion, a moose. Large-scale versions are popular fixtures in hunting and mountain lodges but the more modest varieties make an equally impressive statement in rustic residences.
Candle chandeliers were, of course, the first type of chandelier and have existed since the middle ages in various forms. Presently, most all chandeliers are fitted or have been retrofitted with electric lights, but candle chandeliers—most often found in metal, crystal and glass designs—can add a peaceful, antique ambiance to a room, whether the candles are lit or left unlit.
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