Glass has always had a fascination for me. When I was young there was a craze for collecting glass animals, cheap enough to be bought with pocket money, and usually sporting elongated necks, corkscrew tails, floppy ears and black beady eyes. Collections of them adorned many a young girl’s bedroom, but they were prone to breaking so I suspect few survived beyond the fad following hard on its heels.
Whilst I was quite young one of my grandmothers died, and for some reason, perhaps because such things, in the new era of Danish sleek and plain, were consider old fashioned, I fell heir to some beautiful Victorian cut crystal perfume and smelling salt bottles with silver collars and elegant shapes and stoppers. I was mesmerized. Hooked. That was the start of a collection that grew with the years.
Since then, various other perfume bottles and pieces of art glass have been added, or just vases or knickknacks that have appealed. I even have some pendants made from colourful blobs of Murano glass. Some time ago when in Malta we visited a glass factory making items from recycled Coke bottles. I bought a small dish, vaguely greenish with white splotches, which I still have. A couple of years ago I watched in rapt fascination while a local master glassmaker made a millefiore paper weight. The process seemed effortless, though I knew he followed traditional methods and many years of skill went into its manufacture.
So I was pleased when Bordeaux came up trumps with a new angle on glass for me to appreciate – this time in the form of chandeliers, some traditional, others more quirky. Let me share them with you.
Using glass around candles was, I assume, a way of magnifying the light of one or a number of small flames. Glass caught the light, magnified it, added sparkle, and reflected it around. So, if you could afford it, you filled your home with lights dripping glass — chandeliers, wall sconces, candelabra, even lights attached to pianos.
A lantern of a different type and on a different scale, its glass, in the form of lenses, was used to magnify the output of lighthouses. Originally lit by wood pyres or burning coal, candles, then new developments in oil lamps meant they became the source of illumination for lighthouses to beam out over the seas warning of dangers. This lamp, in the National Museum of Scotland main hall, as far as I remember, came from one of the many lights around the Scottish shores.