Not so," says Edward A. Scofield, president of Period Lighting Fixtures of Clarksburg, Massachusetts.
"Some of the most beautiful rooms in colonial homes often didn't have brass, because it was not easily available."
While solid-brass reproduction chandeliers can cost $6,000 or more, simpler period reproductions sell for a tenth as much.Among the most authentic for low-ceilinged colonial rooms are turned-wood chandeliers with graceful, curving metal arms."They don't take up a lot of visual space, because they're so airy," says Scofield
, who recommends double- or triple-tiered curved-arm fixtures for larger rooms and rooms with higher ceilings.
Since the shape and style of the central shaft on many colonial fixtures is based on elements of furniture turnings, use period furniture or architectural elements in your house, such as a moulding profile or a newel post, as a guide to the selection of a compatible fixtures.Supplement the main fixtures with sconces, which were usually installed in pairs.Even though half a dozen candles would have been considered a dazzling display at a colonial dinner, most experts recommend using higher wattage bulbs combined with a dimmer switch to vary light levels.
Transitional (1780-1850)For all but the grandest houses, the period between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars is considered something of a no-man's land for formal lighting.That's because it's almost impossible to find antique Argand burners, the most popular fixtures between 1800 and 1860.
These early fixtures "were made by skilled lampmakers who really knew how to create fixtures out of metal," Scofield
Victorian (1850-1910)In the gaslight era, it wasn't unusual to find a mix of lighting technologies in the average home, including kerosene lamps, gaseliers, and later, gas-electric combinations.Available as early as the 1840s, gas lighting didn't fully catch on until the 1870s and 1880s, when a regular supply of gas was piped into homes. Cast in brass or bronze, gas fixtures reflected the high styles and decorative motifs of the day: Rococo, Gothic Revival, Neo-Grec, and Eastlake.The most elaborate drop lamps, pendants, and gaseliers were reserved for the parlor and dining room, while crystal gaseliers brightened music rooms and ballrooms.Since gas jets produced a harsher light than candles, round or cup-shaped glass shades were invented to enclose them.