Petal Foot CandlesticksWooden CandlestickBrass, an alloy of copper and zinc, has always had appeal beyond its industrial worth. Less opulent than its aristocratic cousins gold and silver, and yet dressier than its common fellows iron and steel, brass was perfect for crafting goods for the middle class. It was especially popular for fashioning candlesticks, an accessory outside the reach of many 1700's-and early 1800's households, where the wisdom in “early to bed and early to rise” had as much to do with diligence as the fact that burning candles was costly. While the poor or thrifty took advantage of daylight hours, brass candlesticks could convey status, gleaming with the presence of respectable, if not substantial, wealth.
 
Their golden metal took a high polish and was slow to tarnish when lacquered. When thinly coated with silver, they were almost luxurious. But brass candlesticks have consistently been valued for their mix of good design and household importance rather than for their metal content. Age does not necessarily enhance value, either. The market is less about age or weight and more about history, hand craftsmanship, and authentic period style.
 
Brass CandlesticksChamberstickFew British candlesticks survived the Civil War, when all such things were melted down. By the Restoration the earlier pricket candlesticks with the candle held on a spike and a separate grease-pan was superseded by a chunky baluster with a socket and rim to catch the wax. These were cast in three sections – sconce, stem and base – and were heavy and solid.
 
During the 1700´s sheets of fine rolled and die stamped silver were used around a core of metal rod, pitch and plaster. These were cheaper to manufacture.
 
Dedicated collectors focus on brass candlesticks made between about 1700 and 1850, when the very popularity of these objects became their downfall. As early as 1830, brass workers began meeting the demands of a rapidly expanding middle class by utilizing new techniques of mass production that enabled them to make candlesticks faster and less expensively. Gradually, the industry turned its attention away from candlesticks and toward new forms of lighting such as oil, gas, and finally electric lamps.

CandlestickIt was not until the industrial age that America could really compete with Europe in brass-making. Before that, Britain was the world’s largest miner, manufacturer, and marketer of copper and its alloys. In Birmingham, with its concentration of skilled brass workers, a small number of competitive candlestick makers signed their works. Not a single known signed stick is American, a fact that has led many to the conclusion that high-quality brass candlesticks just were not made on American shores until the 1800's.

Style is a key factor in determining whether a candlestick is British or Continental in origin. However, because British goods were considered to be the best anyone could have, Americans aimed to compete by using British models as their patterns, therefore style alone will never answer the question of origin.

Without known makers or documented places of origin, the only way to date brass candlesticks is by their form and construction. The earliest were cast solid in two parts, stem and base, and fastened together with a screw. Often a hole was drilled in the side of the socket so that a knife could be inserted to pry out the candle stub. From 1700 on, use of a new casting method spread—one requiring less metal and less time to produce. The stem and socket were cast hollow in two vertical halves, then brazed together and fastened to the base. Seams are a clue to the authenticity of a period stick. Later, as the 19th century neared, a newer core-casting method allowed a hollow stem and nozzle to be made in one piece, so Victorian candlesticks were cast without seams.
 
Generally candlesticks can be dated by shape and size;
 
1660´s               9 inches high
1700 – 1755      7 inches high
1755 – 1799    10 inches high
1800 onwards 10 – 12 inches high
 
Certain smiths and families were specialist candlestick makers: the marks of the Gould and Cafe families appear again and again.
 
Victorian CandlesticksA standing candlestick with arms and nozzles for more than one candle is called a candelabrum. A low nozzle fixed in a saucer is a chamber stick, and may be made in anything from silver down to enamelled tin.
 
One or two bracket candlesticks fitted on a back plate, mirrored or polished to reflect the light, is called a wall sconce. Really elaborate Rococo versions of these are known as Girandoles. Miniature sticks, four to five inches high, are not for lighting but are taper sticks for melting sealing wax.
 
As well as silver and gold, less expensive candlesticks were made in wood, brass, pewter, glass and Sheffield Plate. Brass candlesticks were highly collectable in the late 1800´s and early 1900´s but are less sought after today. Regency period bronze sticks are still available in fair numbers and reflect the current styles: Gothic, rococo revival and occasionally Eastern influences. Like brass, pewter is no longer popular and candlesticks are rare. The elaborate ormolu and marble candelabra of the Victorian period are back in fashion, as are porcelain candlesticks, particularly the decorative flower-encrusted sticks from Coalport and Meissen.
 
Candle SconsesCandlesticksAs many as half of antique brass candlesticks have some sort of ejection mechanism, the most common being a rod with a button at each end inserted through the hollow stem. A more rudimentary method, the side push-up, uses an external knob connected directly to the candle through a vertical slot cut into the stem. Subtler and more technically sophisticated are the twist-up mechanisms, often unnoticed until the owner tries twisting the candle socket.

At some point in their history, many brass candlesticks were also silvered so that they would resemble the more fashionable metal. Today, any thin silver coatings have all but worn away and the colour of the brass plays a large role in value. Brass makers had their own recipes for colour: the more copper, the redder the brass; the more zinc, the yellower the brass. The most appealing colour to collectors today is a deep, mellow, golden colour.
 
Form remains the most important category for collecting. Styles were followed for decades at a time with only subtle variations. Moulds and patterns were a sizeable start-up cost, and changing fashions meant major reinvestment. After materials and casting, finishing the candlestick was the next greatest investment, and early candlestick makers favoured rounded patterns that could be easily finished on lathe. The perfected casting techniques of the 19th century required little finishing, and a profusion of heavy, angular styles became possible.