Crystal Lighting – A Buyers Guide

Crystal lighting covers a fairly diverse range of products from large and ornate chandeliers to much smaller but equally beautiful table lamps. It is little wonder therefore that we get asked a lot of questions from our customers regarding this product area. So we thought it was time we created a ‘buyers guide’ to help answer a few of the basics.

An interesting starting point for a guide on crystal lighting is the name itself. Modern day ‘crystals’, used for decorative purposes, are in fact not crystals at all. When we talk about crystal in this context we’re actually referring to lead glass. Lead glass is created by replacing the calcium that is typically found in glass with lead. The process of adding lead helps to create a far more desirable and decorative material as it raises the refractive index. In layman’s terms this means that the lead alters the way in which light passes through the glass.

Why do we Call it Lead Crystal?

This dates back to a time when real crystals, specifically rock crystals, were used to enhance lights. It was found that the crystals could help refract light and therefore improve the effectiveness of early chandeliers. The fact that we still use the term crystal chandelier today is more for commercial reasons that any other. ‘Crystal chandelier’ sounds a lot more impressive than ‘Lead Glass Chandelier’, so despite it not being 100% accurate who are we to argue!

Early Chandeliers

Chandeliers, the best known form of crystal lighting, can be traced back 500-600 years to France where very basic versions were widely used. The name Chandelier comes from the French word ‘chandelle’ which means candle holder. The very first designs were simple structures of two wooden beams connected at the middle to form a cross. Spikes were placed at each end, onto which candles were placed. They were commonly found in large rooms such as churches, abbeys and meeting halls.

Over the centuries the size, materials used and decorative qualities of crystal lighting have changed dramatically. Chandeliers were considered by the rich as an ideal means of displaying just how wealthy they were and so the larger and more ornate the design the better. Candles were replaced as a light source in the 18th century by gas which in turn began to be replaced by electricity in the 19th century.

Until fairly recently the trend for bigger and more elaborate chandeliers continued to grow and there is still considerable demand for this style of crystal lighting. The illumination provided by chandeliers was, in many cases, secondary to the design of the light itself. In recent years a much simpler and cleaner style has emerged and crystal chandeliers now have a much broader range of appeal. 

Crystal Lighting Benefits

There are many benefits to purchasing crystal lighting and it’s not just limited to aesthetic reasons.

  • Easy Cleaning – Crystal light fittings do not require any special attention when it comes to cleaning. Simply dusting you crystals on a regular basis will keep the light looking and working great.
  • Durability – Despite being manufactured from glass, crystal lighting is surprisingly strong and durable. There is no reason why, with proper care, your light fitting won’t last for many many years.
  • Environmentally Friendly – Crystal lighting and chandeliers are designed to reflect and scatter light. This was why rock crystal was originally used and the same is still true today. This allows for lower wattage bulbs to be used which will reduce energy usage and save you a few a pennies in the process. You can also use LED bulbs and dimmer switches with crystal lighting which will add to the savings you make.
  • Health – If you’re a believer of Feng Shui then you will be aware of the benefits that using crystals around your home can have on your well-being.

Crystal Chandelier

What to Consider when Choosing a Crystal Chandelier

Choosing a chandelier is an exciting task and you’ll no doubt be keen to get shopping, however it’s worth doing a bit of preparation to make sure the light you buy is the best choice for your room. If you follow these four simple stages you’ll be on the right track;

Work Out the Correct Diameter – Find you measuring tape and work out the length and width of your room and then add the two numbers together. We’ll use an example of a room that is 12 feet long by 12 feet wide, that gives us a total of 24 feet. If you switch the feet for inches, as this is commonly how chandeliers are measured, that gives us 24 inches. When shopping for a chandelier for this room aim for a diameter of around 24 inches and this will help ensure you find a light fitting that has the correct proportions for your room. It’s worth remembering that it’s better to go a little larger rather than a little smaller as the last thing you want is a chandelier that looks lost in a big space.

How high is the Ceiling - The higher/taller the room the higher/taller the chandelier placed there can be. In rooms such as foyers or halls the bottom of the light fitting should be at least 7 feet from the floor. At this height even your tallest guests shouldn’t feel they need to stoop down to avoid banging their heads. If the chandelier is being positioned above a table there should ideally be 30-inches between the table surface and the bottom of the light fitting.

Decide on the location – People have the impression that a chandelier and other large crystal light fittings belong in foyers, entrance halls or in stairwells. These locations are obviously ideal but once you start browsing the range of styles available on the market today it will make you realise that many other areas of the home are equally well suited.

Crystal Lighting

Find the Style that suits you – Chandeliers obviously come in a wide range or shapes, sizes and styles and it’s easy to get carried away and pick a light fitting you love but doesn’t necessarily fit with the existing décor or the room. A well placed chandelier should complement the room it is being placed in but not dominate it. Take your time when choosing and if you need any help please feel free to consult with our experts who will be happy to offer their advice. 

Hanging a Crystal Chandelier

Hanging a crystal chandelier sounds like a scary task and for many people in Britain they will no doubt have in the back of their minds the Only Fools and Horses episode where attempting to remove a chandelier didn’t quite go to plan. However, like any job, if you have the right tools to start with then it can be a relatively easy task.

If you don’t fancy attempting to hang a chandelier yourself then a reputable electrician will be able to help. At Sherwood Lighting we also offer light fitting as a service. Depending on your location and the products ordered this can sometimes be offered free of charge. If you’d like to talk to us about our lighting fitting service then please get in touch.