There is nothing more quintessentially romantic than dining by candlelight, especially when those candles are being held by a beautifully designed antique silver candlestick or candelabra. The team at Loveantiques.com take a closer look at the history of candlesticks and how they can enhance a living space

Candles have been used for illumination by early civilizations like the Ancient Egyptians since at least 3000BC, and originally, candleholders where merely a small cup or spike used to hold a candle and catch the hot wax.

One of the earliest descriptions of a candelabra (multiple candleholder) is found in the Old Testament, when Moses was commanded to make a candelabrum of gold weighing one talent and holding seven candles.

Anything of that age is unlikely to appear on any online antiques marketplace, however, but the surge of popularity for candle holders during the Elizabethan and Stuart periods mean that - although rare - items from the 16th and 17th Century are still possible to find

Wood- gilt, brass, crystal and ceramic were often used to manufacture the items, but from around 1600 on, items manufactured for the higher ranks of society were predominantly made of silver, and examples from this era can often be identified by their inverted wine cup shaped bases.

These earlier candlesticks were made from hammered and folded silver, and later (Charles II) fashions also included silver-plated brass designs usually with highly ornate square bases.

Any silver candleholders before the 18th Century are - due to the method of their construction - very rare to find today, but from the 18th Century onwards, cast (rather than wrought) silver candlesticks became the fashion, and these are nearly all hallmarked under the base. The durability of the cast silver construction technique means that many more have survived the intervening years.

There are several recognisably different styles of candleholders, each designed to best suit its function.

Chambersticks: are recognisable for their short stem and wide drip-pans - features needed for their purpose of carrying the candle to the bed-chamber, often along dark hallways and up draughty stairways. They often also include a snuffer for extinguishing the candle before sleep.

Tapersticks: were used for holding a candle which was then used in turn to light other candles. These are, understandably, smaller in stature than the candlesticks which they were intended to light.

Alter Candlesticks: still used in an ecclesiastical setting, as their name suggests, these are used to illuminate the holiest part of the church and are almost always very tall and grand with wide bases.

Piano Candlesticks: due to their use – which was to illuminate the keys and sheet music whilst playing – they usually have wide, heavy bases and shorter stems. A long stem would place the light too high above the keyboard to make it useful.

Column Candlesticks: though not having any special usage, this style of candlestick is very recognisable and was very popular during the Stuart era (1603 – 1714). They copy the classical aesthetic of Greek and Roman columns, a style which seems to return to fashion time and time again, most notably during the Victorian era.

In Britain the proliferation of candlestick manufacture and use during the 18th Century is thought to have coincided with the fashion, copied from our continental neighbours - the French, of eating dinner later in the evening.

Of course, as with any item made from a precious metal, the collectability of silver candlesticks comes partly from the inherent value of the raw material, but more importantly, from the standard of design and the level of craftsmanship used in its execution.

One notable silversmith, whose beautiful candlestick designs can fetch good prices, is Ebenezer Coker (died. 1783). Born in Berhampsted – Hertford, he was apprenticed to the highly regarded silversmith Joseph Smith and went on to make a wide variety of stunning silverware. His candlesticks are especially well respected, fetching very good prices, so keep an eye out for his work.

Loveantiques.com is the internet’s fastest growing antiques marketplace, with hundreds of genuine antiques dealers and over 25,000 unique antique and vintage items. To find out more visit www.loveantiques.com

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