Uncle Bobs Tips

All About Chandeliers

All About Chandeliers

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Chandeliers, hanging light fixtures, add charm and distinction to any room. While once illuminating the entrance halls and ballrooms in Europe and reserved for the affluent, today you can find them across the U.S. as well. Making a resurgence, the ever-expanding array of chandelier styles, finishes and design options have increased chandelier popularity and now include:

  • Elegant crystal chandeliers for the dining room
  • Traditional brass chandeliers with candlestick lights for the entrance foyer
  • Rustic antler chandeliers with leather shades for a den or office setting
  • Wrought iron chandeliers for a more rustic decor
  • Italian crystal and brass chandeliers
  • Tiffany chandeliers for a decorative accent
  • Painted-finish chandeliers for the kitchen
  • Victorian chandeliers to add a touch of romance to the bedroom
  • Buying Your Chandelier

    New chandeliers may be purchased from: Lighting shops; Chandelier specialists

    Find more unique and interesting chandeliers in: Antique shops; Second-hand shops; Specialty Shops

    For cheaper alternatives go to: Markets; Garage sales; Junkyards

    Chandelier purchasers today have a greater appreciation for authenticity and attention to detail in both chandelier construction and finish, and manufacturers of high quality chandeliers maintain rigorous quality control inspections and testing as part of the fabrication process.

    Chandelier Lights: Chandelier lights add a distinctive appearance that enhance and complement the chandelier design. Whether they are candlestick lights, hand molded crystal shades or Tiffany style pendant shades, chandelier lights should be well constructed and durable.

    Chandelier Finishes: A wide variety of high-quality chandelier finishes increase durability, resisting tarnish, corrosion and flaking. Brushed metal finishes and painted finishes have gained popularity and are currently top sellers. Check for any imperfections, bubbles, chips or scratches that may indicate lesser attention to detail.

    Crystal Chandeliers: Chandeliers made of crystal are available in all shapes and sizes. Crystals used in chandeliers may be hand cut, gem cut or molded. Lead content may or may not be representative of high quality as lead is added as a softener to facilitate cutting and polishing. Many top quality crystal chandeliers may contain no lead.

    Selecting Your Chandelier

    Choosing the correct size is paramount. A large chandelier will overcome a tiny room while a small chandelier hung over a long dining room table will look lost. In general, however, bigger is usually better since too often a chandelier can look tiny.

    Determining the width:

    Add the length and the width of your room and use this sum, in inches, as a measure of your chandelier diameter. For example, if your room is 12' x 14', you should consider 26" wide chandeliers. You may choose to go down in size if your room is closed and full of furniture, or up a bit if it is a rather open room.

    Determining the height: Chandeliers come with long lengths of chain and wire so that there will be sufficient length for various ceiling heights Remember that the higher you hang a chandelier, the smaller it looks. If you are hanging your chandelier in a room with a low ceiling where it is necessary to walk under the chandelier, you might need to go smaller than the above formula suggests.

    For foyer chandeliers, allow for door clearances and hang the chandelier so that the lowest point will be at least 7 or more feet from the floor. If the chandelier will be placed above a table, it should hang 30 to 36 inches above the table (unless the ceiling is higher than 8 feet, in which case it may look better if it is higher than the 36 inches).

    Determining the style: When selecting your chandelier, ask: What style is the room you wish to decorate? Chandeliers can blend with your decor or serve as a distinctive focal point in the room. Remember: A chandelier adds style to a room, but is generally a poor light source. Thus, a chandelier doesn't need an abundance of bulbs even if a room is big; let other lighting in the room appropriately supplement a more restrained chandelier. Avoid glare problems by buying a chandelier equipped with tiny shades (mini-shades) or put the fixture on a dimmer and then supplement the room lighting with table lamps or alternative light sources.

    Additional Tips:

  • Collect pictures of chandeliers that appeal to you from the Internet or magazines. Ask to see catalogs at the lighting store to increase your selection options.

  • Try to keep metals in the room harmonized, i.e., dull pewter shouldn't mix with shiny silver, and shiny brass shouldn't be mixed with antique brass or verdigris.

  • Determine whether a potential purchase uses specialty bulbs or standard bulbs. Specialty bulbs can be hard to find and are expensive.

  • Choose a Certified Lighting Specialist who can help you with both style and functionality. Insist on quality in the product, service, lighting center and installation personnel.

  • Remember that a chandelier is a dust magnet, and that any dust settling on crystal pieces can be seen when light passes through them. Examine potential chandelier purchases for ease of cleaning and keep in mind that simpler designs are usually easier to clean.

    How to Clean a Crystal Chandelier

    Before disassembling your fixture, ALWAYS make a diagram of where all the removable bits of the chandelier belong. Don’t rely on your memory. Another solution is to clean the chandelier by sections. Never clean the chandelier with the lights turned on, and make sure to give the bulbs time to cool before beginning.

    Place a thick blanket under your fixture to catch any prisms you may drop. This will keep them from breaking and from scratching your table. Do not turn your chandelier as you clean it. Keep the fixture stationary while you move around it.

    While many spray-on chandelier cleansers are on the market, the "old fashioned" method of taking the chandelier apart is the most thorough and longest lasting cleaning method. Carefully remove all of the trimmings, place the pendants in a plastic colander with a small amount of mild dish detergent and rinse the pendants well with hot water. The hotter the water, the fewer the spots! Vinegar or ammonia will also give crystal a good shine, however be careful to keep these solutions away from the metal pinning. Note that harsh chemicals have a tendency to react with the pinning causing them to become blackened and brittle. When putting festoons under running water, they should be held at full length with both hands to avoid tangling. Pieces can then be laid out to air dry or be dried with a cloth.

    When cleaning the body of the chandelier, first dust with a dry cloth and then polish with glass cleaner sprayed on to a cloth (never spray into the fixture). The more lint-free the cloth, the better results you will have. Paper towel is fine. Return all hanging pieces to the fixture, working from the inside to the outside.

    If you do not wish to disassemble your chandelier, do as follows: Cover any upward-pointing bulbs with sandwich bags. Secure the bags with rubber bands and place a drop cloth below the chandelier. Spray every part of the fixture with your cleanser, avoiding wires and other electrical components. Allow the crystals to drip-dry. Remove the plastic bags from the lights once the crystals have dried, and wipe down light wells and other non-crystal parts with a soft cloth dipped in the cleanser. Allow the entire fixture to dry overnight before turning the power back on.

    TIP: For a quick spruce-up, simply clean and polish your bulbs. You won't believe the difference!

    For solid brass fixtures, remove the crystal trimmings and clean in the manner described above. However, the bodies of brass chandeliers need only dusting. Do not apply cleaner or brass polish to this brass.

    Alternatives: Contact a local fixture cleaning service or lighting store for contract workers who will come to your house to clean your chandeliers and install your fixtures. To restore or ‘fix-up’ an old piece you can take it to professionals or take on the challenge yourself. There are numerous bead and crystal shops that supply glass parts or classic crystals. Some market stall-holders often have odd drops and pendants that are usually on sale at a bargain.


    Across the entire spectrum of interior lighting, there is no fixture like the chandelier. Ranging in appearance from classic, majestic, opulent, modern, rustic, romantic, colorful and ornate to subtly elegant, chandeliers are a magical synthesis of metals and glass that are sure to dazzle the imagination of all who behold them and to add shine and sparkle to your room.

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