Bell jar lanterns are a classic tribute to centuries of lighting. They add a traditional, yet eclectic, feel to a space. The evolution of the bell jar light fixture proves that they can be adapted to accentuate a number of functions and design styles.
Lanterns appear in medieval manuscripts as early as the 13th century. Some of these forms included basic frames with panels of horn or glass. The first innovations in lighting technology were the most basic way to illuminate the dark, clammy hallways.
Leonardo da Vinci is the first known inventor to put a flame inside a glass container fitted to a water-filled glass globe.
Renaissance Bell Jar Fixtures
As lighting evolved, pendant lighting styles moved away from carved hanging lamps of wood and metal to round glass chimney lanterns. The fixture was suspended from the ceiling by a circular plate, hook, and chains.
With the creation of ornately embellished chandeliers in 17th century France and 18th century England, pendants made from crystals and frosted glass were en vogue up until the 20th century.
In expansive, darkly-paneled 18th century homes, light emanated mainly from the fireplace, or candles. However, candles were expensive. Homes incorporated the trick of medieval and renaissance predecessors by enclosing candles in glass pendants to be hung from the ceiling. Often, the candles were only lit during festivities, and the glass jar prevented the candles from being snuffed out by a draft.
American Colonial and Federalist Period
Bell jar light fixtures were quite popular during the colonial period in America. These fixtures were elaborately design with reliefs and other decorative finishes. A smoke bell cap on the pendants prevented candle smoke from blackening the ceilings or walls.
Bell jar lanterns, known as Hundi lanterns, were popular and widespread in colonial India. Here, hand-blown glass fixtures were made in a variety of sparkling, jewel-like colors in styles representing a meeting of Western and Indian design.
Bell jar lighting remains popular to the present day. Obviously, the function has evolved over time from candles, oil, or gas to electric pendant fixtures. A number of designs, etched patterns, and colors embellish homes across the world with a style that is both vintage and modern, traditional and edgy.
Olde Good Things recently acquired a collection of fine bell jar glass carefully curated by an avid collector over years of traveling to India and purchasing antique fine crystal and glass bell jars. The antique pieces are available in both cut and clear crystal, ruby red or emerald green.