1. What do you need to know before you buy?
What you like! The most important thing is to buy items that you genuinely love. If you are buying a genuine antique it should hold its value but antiques are subject to fashion too. For example, elaborate Victorian light fittings used to be our biggest seller, but are currently out of fashion with the rise of clean contemporary interiors.
2. How do you source your chandeliers?
We source chandeliers from a huge variety of places. As well as auctions and antique fairs we have a variety of runners from all corners who understand what we are looking for and will buy chandeliers for us. It is this that gives us such a unique collection of Antique Lighting.
3. What periods are the most fashionable?
Currently we find that the simple elegant chandeliers are the most popular. Georgian chandeliers are the ultimate in style and quality. They come with a serious price tag but, much like a Georgian house, they seem to remain timeless and always fashionable. They work well as a sharp contrast in a minimalist setting as well as looking stunning when surrounded by opulence.
4. What interiors do they suit? How to match certain styles to certain rooms?
There is a chandelier to suit almost any setting, although I’m not a fan of the fashion for chandeliers in a kitchen as they are not the easiest fitting to clean! Of course they are associated with grand interiors but they also add a beautiful touch of sparkle to a simple, contemporary hallway. I think the best place to show off a chandelier, especially if you aren’t lucky enough to have 3m of ceiling height, is over a dining table hung low or in a stairwell.
5. What do you look for in a chandelier?
The sharpness of the cut in the glass is the first indicator of quality. Although many chandeliers are not engraved with a makers mark the quality of chandelier makers such as F & C Osler, Perry & Co and John Blades stand out when compared to early C20th Bohemian chandeliers.
6. What should the customer look for in terms of craftsmanship or design?
Again, it’s what you like. If the crystal isn’t deep cut and any design in metalwork doesn’t look sharp then it’s probably not a high quality chandelier, but as prices range for £100 to £100,000 unless you’re an expert I would advise to treat it like any other lighting purchase. If you are spending £400-£500 just make sure you like it. However if your budget is significantly larger, then you do need to beware. We have travelled to auction houses to view ‘Osler’ chandeliers with pretty hefty guide prices, only to find they are of inferior quality and definitely not made by Osler. So, if you are spending a lot of money on an antique chandelier, seek professional advice from a specialist chandelier dealer.
7. What should the customer avoid/ look out for?
If the chandelier has visible metal work, check that it looks substantial. High quality casting is very obvious next to its cheaper alternative. A thin, ‘tinny’, gilt coloured ring or detail on a chandelier is an indication of a decorative rather than valuable piece. Again, check the quality of any design or cut in the glass. High quality will look very clean cut and sharp (as in the picture below).
8. Which era/ country achieved the ‘best’ chandeliers?
Easy, Georgian England! You can argue with me if you like, but I think they are the best chandeliers every made! A visit to the Bath assembly rooms will prove me right, the chandeliers are stunning and they have a very interesting story in the history of chandelier making which is worth exploring. It has to be said, any French and Italians reading this are bound to disagree as they too have some pretty good history in chandelier making, but I do like to buy British whenever possible and our early glass techniques were renowned around the world.
9. Do you get fakes – what are the signs?
You do get fakes but more common are false claims – lots of C20th chandeliers were based on older designs so they are not really fakes but are often sold as being much older than they really are. The most obvious signs are poor quality casting and glass cutting. However, they can be hard to spot if you don’t really know what you are looking for.
10. How easy are they to install – do you need any certification?
Crystal chandeliers are as diverse as the buildings they go into and certainly can make for a tricky installation. The biggest issue regarding installation into any building is the weight. A large crystal chandelier weighs around 20-25kg so needs a good joist or other support to go into if you don’t want an ‘Only Fools and Horses’ style disaster. It’s actually sometimes easier to install into modern buildings – especially new builds as you can specify the support needed before the ceiling is plastered and finished. We do lots of installations as many electricians are understandably nervous about working with high value antique chandeliers. We rewire and pat test all our restored chandeliers and all work is completed to current electrical standards.
11. Are they a good investment as part of a property?
I think the best way to view them is that they will hold value in the way a contemporary fitting may not. In 10 years time they may not necessarily have appreciated, but they should fetch a good price.
12. Is there any way to get a good deal?
Be lucky! Today, the internet means that any auction is now international, even smaller regional ones willattract American, Japanese and Chinese buyers if they have the right piece and they will usually pay top dollar. However, we have occasionally had some very good bargains so hunt around at antique fairs and auctions and you never know what you will find. The bargains are often at the bottom of a box and a bit damaged.
13. Price range – how much/ little do you need to spend?
From £100 to £100,000+, there is no limit!
14. What’s the best tip you can give people looking to buy an antique chandelier?
I’m repeating myself but buy what you love, not what you think will appreciate in value, and then if it doesn’t it won’t matter!