Originally, a candlestick was simply a cup or spike which held the candle upright and caught the dripping wax as it melted, so as to protect the surface which the candle was upon. Candlesticks which still feature this spike are known as ‘pricket’ candlesticks. Although this design wasn’t originally intended as a domestic candlestick, they have stood the test of time and can still be found today. Gradually, candlesticks developed from purely utilitarian items, into pieces of decorative silverware in their own right.
The definition of a candlestick is any type of holder for candles, in spite of style and type. This vague candlestick definition means that there are many types and styles of candlestick, and the types used varied in different areas of the household, as well as the obvious difference between large, more decorative candlesticks which would’ve been used in in wealthier households.
History of the Candlestick
The earliest candlestick which has been discovered is a clay candleholder which dates back to 400BC, and it believed that the candle itself was created as early as 3000BC by the Ancient Egyptians, who used beeswax to illuminate their way in the dark.
Candelabra were used for decoration in larger, wealthier homes and specifically on dining tables for formal occasions. Although these were practical for creating far more light than a single candlestick, the design of candelabra is predominantly for aesthetic purposes. The height and grandeur of the candelabra evolved through the desire to have a lavish item of silverware as the centerpiece to a table, whilst also benefiting from its practical use.
Candlesticks saw a surge of popularity during the Early Elizabethan and Stuart periods. Tragically however, most of these were subsequently melted down. This means that items from this era are very rare to come across today.
During the 1600s, designs of candlesticks were predominantly silver and much sturdier than the brass examples that would follow them. They were usually crafted with an inverted wine cup shaped base.
Silver plate was in high demand during the reign of Charles II (as we know from sources such as the diary of Samuel Pepys). We can see many Italianate examples of candlesticks from this era, and generally more fanciful designs.
Moving forward to the 18th century we can see other forms becoming more popular. The baluster form for example, which later evolved into various other swelling and undulating forms, often with ornamental edges.
During the 1870s, the electric lightbulb was invented, and gradually was introduced to homes across Europe and the world. Although candlesticks have become far less common since they stopped being a practical necessity, they are still incredibly popular as decorative pieces.
Types of Candlestick
There are many types of candlestick, as they were the primary source of light in all households for hundreds of years. Candlesticks became much more commonly used during the 18th century, when dining habits changed, and the French style of eating later in the evening was adapted across Europe, there was more demand for ornamental candlesticks which would look impressive on the dinner table, as well as being functional.
Tapersticks are generally smaller and thinner candlesticks, made for the purpose of lighting other candles, or to provide wax for wax seals. They were not need to light a large space or hold larger candles, and their diminutive size is based on the need for them to be easy to transport quickly between rooms.