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The Pros and Cons of Old Chandeliers

Buying a chandelier can be a complicated process.

Chandeliers-in-Russian-subwayYou’re going to need to decide on the chandelier design, the materials used in its construction, the location you plan to place it in (consider all those chandeliers in the Russian subway!), it’s style and size, and also set a budget for it.

And alongside all these factors, you have to decide whether you want a new or a used piece.

Pre-owned chandeliers can be much sought-after, especially if they're a vintage piece and have a unique design.

So it’s a good idea to consider all of the pros and cons of old chandeliers before investing in them. Then you can decide if a good second hand item is what you want, or if you want to go with something new.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of buying a second hand chandelier.

The Benefits of Buying an Old Chandelier

An old chandelier is an excellent investment if you are careful about the purchase and take the time to find the right fixture. Here are some of the most significant benefits of the feature:

1. Affordable

As with most second hand items, the fact that its second hand does causes it to lose a portion of its original selling price.

Think about if you buy a new car. If you drove it round the block (literally, round the block), and then sold it, the fact that it was now second hand probably means that you would have to resell it at about 10% less than what you originally paid.

Unless of course, there are exceptional circumstances. Which I’ll cover a bit later separately, but for now, let’s accept that most second hand items are going to be cheaper than if you bought them new.

And that’s usually the case with chandeliers too!

They can be affordable as long as they aren't a vintage piece. Fixtures that are 10 to 30 years old are quite affordable, and some even sell at half of their original price.

Just make sure you double-check the quality of the pre-owned piece before making the purchase.

2. Handcrafted

Many old chandeliers are handcrafted, and are one-of-a-kind, because the chandelier-makers add their personal touch to the pieces.

This uniqueness increases the value and appeal of the chandelier. The fixtures are intricate and resilient, and their connections and glasswork aren't as fragile as the connections in machine-made installations.

3. Vintage Design

Older chandeliers are designed according to the trends and preferences of their time. For example, ones from the 1970s will have a specific aesthetic, which is different to ones from the 1830s.

This characteristic sets them apart from modern fixtures, and makes them more appealing. They contrast current design trends and add variety to your home. This also helps them to stand out more.

4. Proven Durability

Most chandeliers are designed to last for several decades, but you can never be sure if modern-day pieces are that resilient.

Older chandeliers have been in use for several years, if not decades, and still look great. Their condition and beauty is proof of their resilience. These chandeliers will last for many years if you clean them regularly, and maintain them well.

5. Options and Variety

There's no lack of options and variety in the used chandelier market.

You can find pieces from different eras, brands, and locations. It’s possible to find interesting Middle Eastern pieces, grand Italian chandeliers, intricate French or Bulgarian glass fixtures, etc, and they all have a different look and feel about them.

There’s something in the market for every taste and preference.

Whereas, in modern times, big brands tend to dominate the market, and look the same the world over.

6. Investment Pieces

Now, I promised to come back to those occasions when something second hand increases in value, rather than decreases.

There can be a number of reasons for this. One can be the “halo effect”, which is how something is perceived as having more significant value simply because of who owned it.

Think of the Beatles psychedelic Rolls Royce, or the dress that Marilyn Monroe wore when she say happy birthday to President Kennedy. Both items fetch far more in auctions than similar items, just because they belonged to the Beatles and Marilyn wore it.

Chandelier-in-Ajuda-Palace-LisbonThe same can be said of chandeliers. Can you imagine the value of a chandelier that was hanging in Versailles for centuries? Or somewhere similar. If for some reason, it ever went on sale, that fact alone would cause massive increases in pricing.

And the thing about good investments, is that unless they somehow fall out of fashion, they will continue to rise in value. Which means that your chandelier actually continues to rise in value, even while it decorates your home.

And now it’s time to look at what can be the downside of buying second hand chandeliers.

The Disadvantages of Buying an Old Chandelier

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to buying an old, pre-owned chandelier. Most of these downsides are easy to overcome if you shop carefully and understand what's involved. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

1. They Might Require Restoration and Rewiring

Older chandeliers could have a patina, and it usually adds to the beauty of the light fixture. However, some of the damage could be serious and can harm the structural integrity of the installation.

Older chandeliers also have old wiring, which might not live up to modern safety standards. Many customers have to spend some money on restoring used fixtures, to ensure they perform well, look good and are safe for use.

If your chandelier is of good quality and has a unique heritage, the additional investment in restoring and rewiring will be worth the money.

Think of people that invest in old cars. The 1950s Ferrari that is continually looked after and looks to be in mint condition will be more valuable than one left in a barn for fifty years. So those who’ve made a barn find usually then have it restored, as the return on investment makes that worthwhile when it comes time to sell.

On the other hand, a poorly made piece without any unique characteristics, won’t have much value.

Getting these rewired and restored might not be a smart investment decision. If you have liked a particular chandelier, get an expert’s opinion before making a purchase decision.

2. Replacement Parts May Be Expensive

Some old chandeliers have missing arms or crystals, and replacing them can be expensive. Sometimes restorers have to recreate the missing component from scratch because the chandelier's manufacturers are no longer in business, and the spare parts aren't available.

Your used fixture might not be worth the money or effort if it doesn't have a great backstory.

For example, a 50-year old piece that once decorated Freddie Mercury's home might be valuable. Even if the replacement parts are costly and hard to come by, the restoration can be worth the effort and expense.

However, a 20-year old chandelier that doesn't have any unique characteristic isn't worth the effort or cost.

Be objective with your assessment of the piece and keep these aspects in view while buying an old chandelier.

3. Big Market for Fake Vintage

There are several fake vintage chandeliers available on the market. These pieces are affordable but of poor quality.

They are replicas of unique and attractive pieces, but are made from inferior quality materials. The crystals become dull, their fragile metal connections break, and the chandelier loses its charm over time.

That's why it is essential to double-check the pre-owned chandelier to ensure it is of good quality.

When you’re buying a vintage chandelier, you need to check its quality and authenticity. Inspect the cut of the crystals, check the metal arms for strength and substance, and ask about the chandelier's origin.

As mentioned earlier, if you are unsure about the quality, ask an expert for advice before making the purchase. This step is crucial if you're investing in expensive pieces. (Or better yet, buy through an expert that will already have authenticated things!)

Georgian chandeliers are very popular today, because of their minimalistic and restrained design. Italian Murano glass chandeliers are also in demand, because of their unique designs and colorful appearance.

In summary, buying old chandeliers can be a great choice, especially if you're looking for something unique. Just be careful about how you do it, and get some good advice.