When you work in the field of interior lighting, there are certain names which stand out from the rest – names which relate to exceptional quality and craftsmanship. In the sphere if interior lighting we have our own versions of Rolls Royce and Bentley, and one of those names you should familiarise yourself with is Schonbek.
The year was 1870 and the region Bohemia, home to the world’s finest crystal glass, when Adolf Schonbek decided the time was right to leave the safety of the family run business and branch out on his own. In next to no time Adolf Schonbek started producing the finest cut crystal glass chandeliers, to such exacting standards that his creations soon found themselves hanging in both Buckingham Palace and the White House.
Sadly two World Wars took their toll on the Schonbek factories and after first having them commandeered by the Nazis, then taken over by the Communists, Adolf’s son Arnold moved the business to Canada, before finally settling in the USA, where the company continued to trade successfully until 2007. It was then bought out by Swarovsky, a world-renowned name for producing the finest crystals.
However, there need be no fear that Swarovsky’s ownership would see anything inherently detrimental happen to the Schonbek enterprise, the fact the business still continues to trade under its original name is a fairly good indicator that the intention was to change little anyway.
And so to the chandeliers, though a quick guide to crystal will do no harm beforehand. Swarovsky have been producing some of the world’s finest crystal for many years, having become the designer’s choice at the turn of the 20th century. There are approximately eight types of Swarovsky crystal used in Schonbek chandeliers, including Elements and Spectra Crystal, while Heritage Handcut, which are truly authentic hand-cut crystals polished on a wood wheel using marble dust. Optical handcut and Gemcut are followed by Vintage crystal, such as droplets and ornate faceted shapes which are woven in to chains. Legacy and Rock crystal complete the list, with Rock crystal used when art and craftsmanship are allowed to combine with a gentler light more usually associated with the candlelight of days gone by.
And so to the chandeliers themselves, and here comes the first surprise – you don’t need to live in a mansion, have a forty foot hallway, or a dining room that seats a minimum of 20 people in order to have a chandelier. More interestingly, chandeliers don’t always comprise the pendant style you see in glossy magazines and period country homes. Take the Riviera range by Schonbek as a fine example. A gorgeous linear design using crystal in what, to a chemist, would be a more normal and elongated crystalline form. With options between 4 and 24 lights in one of these gorgeous works of art, you can easily imagine how the sizes range from the practical and functional, to the downright grand and statement-making.
Valcour is a more contemporary and inherently practical style which includes matching wall fittings, making it ideal for illuminating a hallway and staircase, while the Calima range just oozes opulence, but not in an overstated o manner and more in a tasteful and elegant Italianate fashion. The delicate lines and fusion of light and crystal are almost mesmerising.
When looked at in a practical, as well as aesthetic light, it becomes abundantly clear that the style and design of these chandeliers is that of timeless elegance, which is really the bedrock of a chandelier’s beauty – its ability to transcend the ages and remain a fabulous heirloom for generation after generation.