Brief history and description
Often referred to as a chamberstick or candelabrum, a candlestick is a device that holds one or more candles and is commonly used for illumination. However, a candlestick is also used for decorative purposes and in some religious rituals.
Candle light has been used for illumination for centuries and was by far the most common use of lighting along with oil lamps until the invention of electric lighting in the late-nineteenth century.
Candles and candlesticks also play an important part in religious rituals and are frequently used for spiritual purposes. Altar lamps and tall candlesticks are frequently found in churches. Candlesticks are often on display in Jewish homes as two candles are lit to denote the beginning of the Sabbath on a Friday night. Additionally, a hunukiah is a special eight candle holder used during the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. A Menorah, a seven branched candelabrum, is the national symbol of the State of Israel and is based on an ancient candelabrum used in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Guide for collectors
Candlesticks have been produced in a variety of techniques, styles and shapes for centuries and offer a multitude of possibilities for collectors. Despite their practical obsolescence, candlesticks are still used to add atmosphere on special occasions or included as a decorative element in modern homes.
The most expensive candlesticks are usually fashioned out of one piece of a precious metal, including brass, silver and gold. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century very high class pieces were executed in this manner, though very few examples have survived.
Porcelain and earthenware candlesticks that were made in China are highly sought after by collectors can reach up £10,000 when they appear on the market. Additionally, British companies, including Wedgewood and Royal Doulton, also produced candlesticks most notably in the eighteenth century and are a collectable niche in their own right.
Glass was also a common material for the production of candlesticks and there is a growing number of collectors who seek items that were made by the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company and the American New England Glass Company. Collectors interested in this corner of the market are advised to look out for the rare and extremely collectable dolphin shaped pieces.
Arguably, the most valuable candlesticks are either pre-sixteenth century brass pieces or silver candlesticks that were produced by Huguenot silversmiths during the early seventeenth century in Britain and France. Perhaps the most influential silversmith of this time was Paul Crespin and his products are especially desirable and can reach extraordinary prices.
In April 1996, a set of fine George II silver candlesticks, made by the influential Huguenot silversmith Paul Crespin in 1749, realised a price of $79,500 when sold through Christie’s, New York.
A fine porcelain “famille” rose candlestick group, produced during the Qianlong dynasty in the early eighteenth century, was sold through Bonhams and fetched £9,998 in March 2003.