How Lead Glass is used in Venetian Crystal Chandelier Designs
Chandeliers have been in use since Medieval times, and have a long history both within Europe and beyond. A chandelier is defined as any kind of decorative lighting fixture that is installed on the ceiling, with two or more light bearing arms. While the original chandeliers from Medieval times were simple in construction, the chandelier form has become more ornate and refined over the centuries, this sort of lighting can still be purchased today at any chandelier shop. Perhaps the most well recognised chandelier design of them all is the venetian crystal chandelier, a design that uses specially made lead glass to produce a striking effect with properties of illumination and refraction. The area of Murano in Venice, Italy is one of the most famous places in the world associated with lead glassmaking and crystal chandeliers, and the place where the term cristallo originally took its name.
Murano is a series of islands off Venice in northern Italy, an area that is famous for its glassmakers and chandelier design. However, lead glass has been used throughout human history all over the world, in places as diverse as China, the Middle East, and Europe. The first evidence of lead glass manufacture comes out of Mesopotamia, the birthplace of the glass industry. There is also evidence of lead glass manufacture in Han period China however, during the period 206 BC - 220 AD. Venice became the centre of the lead glass industry in Europe in early modern Europe, especially the islands of Murano where the industry was focused most heavily. The use of lead glass on an industrial scale is often linked to George Ravenscroft, who had close ties to Venice and was the first person to produce lead glass on a large scale back in his native Britain.
Lead glass is used to produce the glass crystal beads and other cut pieces of crystal chandeliers, and is one of the materials most often associated with chandelier design and the manufacture of glass lampshades. Lead crystal glass has a much higher index of refraction than normal glass materials, and is therefore much better at scattering light in a chandelier fixture. Because of this, crystal glass gives off an amazing sparkle by increasing the specular reflection and internal reflection of any light it receives. Lead glass is integral to a number of different chandelier designs, and associated heavily with the chandelier industry. It is used to create beautiful and vibrant lighting fixtures that would not otherwise be possible to produce.