Antique Chandeliers are Christmas Treat
Sometimes the best surprises are the ones you don’t expect.
When I purchase an antique light for Old West Coast Lighting, I tend to be very cautious. I like to buy lights that are complete: no missing ceiling canopies, no lost bobeches, original finials and support arms in place. Considering many of the lights I sell are several decades old, finding an intact, original condition light can be a difficult task. People take these antiques down, squirrel them away or take them apart, so it’s almost inevitable that pieces get lost. Being a practical person, one begins to make adjustments to that pie-in-the-sky ideal. If I find an incomplete antique chandelier, I’ll start by asking myself, Can I find a similar part for this light that stays true to its original character? If the answer is yes, I might buy it.
But condition plays a role as well. It’s wonderful to find a light with a good surface. But again, time takes its toll, and it can be especially grueling when a piece has been stored in less-than-ideal conditions, like a garage, an attic or even a barn. So, again, the trade offs begin. I’ll think, Does all this light need is a good cleaning? Can a few touchups be made or would a wholesale surface restoration be in order? Can that dent be taken out or that nasty paint around the ceiling canopy be removed?
Sometimes I buy off the Internet. When you factor in poor photographs and incomplete descriptions with all the bad things that can happen to a light, it can be a real gamble as to what shows up at your door.
I decided to take a risk last December on a pair of antique chandeliers that came up on an auction site. No one bid on them by the end of the auction so the price was lowered. I could tell the bobeches were missing from one of the chandeliers. And it looked like they might also be missing their hanging chains and ceiling canopies. Still, they looked so unique, I decided to take a chance.
The two boxes arrived right after Christmas while I was out of town. They were neatly stacked in a protected area by the front door. If they had arrived in wrapping paper, I might have believed that Santa delivered them! I packed them out to the shop, where I went about slicing open the boxes and uncoiling yards and yards of bubble wrap.
When I finally got to the chandeliers themselves, I was thrilled. They were this beautiful testament to the high ideals of Art Nouveau design. They had five arching side panels with lilies cascading down the middle of them and pressed metal undersides imprinted with intricate chevrons. They were big and heavy, and best of all they didn’t need hanging chains and their original ceiling canopies, echoing the chevrons on the underside, were in still place!
As I admired their beauty, I remember saying, “This is better than Christmas!” and then thinking, “Only an antique light geek is going to think that!”
Both lights can be seen on my website, oldwestcoastlightingcompany.com. There’s also a lot of other great antique lights there, too, real evidence of a time when design and detail in lighting were paramount, not chintzy afterthoughts.
With one gamble paying off in spades, I’m hoping there will be more pleasant surprises out there as I continue this crazy journey of antique light restoration.
Copyright, 2016, Old West Coast Lighting Company. You are invited to reprint this article, provided the following attribution and link are provided: Old West Coast Lighting Company offers restored antique lighting and lighting supplies. Please visit its website at oldwestcoastlightingcompany.com.