We take the convenience of electric light so much for granted that it is easy to forget how dependent our ancestors were on candlelight. The earliest surviving silver candlesticks werer made solely for ecclesiastical use, as it was only the church who could afford such luxuries. Early candles were both smoky and smelly, made from beewax or tallow, with those made in France considered far superior to the English variety.
Although silver candlesticks have been made in great quantity from the late 17th century, they have always been expensive items, intended for the wealthiest members of the population. The majority lit their way through the dark with far cheaper rush lights or candles burning in brass or pewter candlesticks. This exclusivity is reflected in prices today, so that it is possible to pay over £10,000 for a fine pair of English silver candlesticks by a well known silversmith. Single stick are a lot more difficult to sell and therefore much more affordable, and will usually be well below half the value of a pair.
Antique Italian Silver Candlesticks
Weight 511 grams, 16.4 troy ounces. Height 26 cms. Diameter of base 12 cms. Marked round the base with Italian silver stamps for Rome. Late 18th century.
Candlesticks fall into two main categories, cast and loaded: the former cast in moulds and soldered together, the latter stamped or hammered out from sheet silver, soldered together and then filled with pitch or plaster of Paris to give them weight and stability. Cast candlesticks have hollow bases, and loaded examples filled-in bases covered with green baize to protect the surface on which they sit. Cast candlesticks are made from a much heavier gauge of silver than the loaded variety and were made in England and Continental Europe in significant quantities from the early 18th century and in the United States from the mid-19th century. They are less prone to wear than the lighter gauge-loaded variety introduced c. 1765.
|George II silver cast candlestick|
The rules on dating are not hard and fast, however, because of some earlier examples were made from sheet, and cast candlesticks went on being made, particularly during the English Regency period when earlier styles were copied.