A chandelier is a branched decorative ceiling-mounted light fixture with two or more arms bearing lights. Chandeliers are often ornate, containing dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light. The world's largest chandelier is fixed in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque located in Abu Dhabi.
An antique chandelier with candles. Illustration of a medieval chandelier from King René's Tournament Book, 1460 The earliest candle chandeliers were used in medieval places of assembly. 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 or chain suspended from a hook.
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 homes of the nobility, clergy and merchant class. The high cost of night time illumination made the chandelier a symbol of luxury and status.
By the early 18th century, ornate cast ormolu forms with long, curved arms and many candles could be found in the homes of much of the growing merchant class. Neoclassical motifs became an increasingly common element, mostly in cast metals but also in carved and gilded wood. 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. In the nineteenth century, as gas light became a source of illumination, branched ceiling fixtures were produced, and the term gasolier, a portmanteau of gas and chandelier, was frequently used.
Gas illuminated chandeliers appeared in the mid-19th century, and many candle chandeliers were converted to gas. By the 1890s, and the appearance of electricity for illumination, chandeliers were produced that used both gas and electricity. As distribution of electricity became wider, and the supply dependable, fixtures wired only for electricity became standard. The world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier, a gift from Queen Victoria, is located in the Dolmabahçe Palace (Istanbul). The chandelier has 750 lamps and weighs 4.5 tons. Dolmabahçe has the largest collection of Bohemian and Baccarat crystal chandeliers in the world, and one of the great staircases has bannisters of Baccarat crystal. 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.
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. One famous chandelier is the chandelier in the Opera Garnier which in the 1910 Gaston Leroux novel The Phantom of the Opera is crashed by the Phantom.