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What are Candelabra?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Candelabra are candlesticks with two or more branching arms. Traditionally, candelabra were used as a source of light, and they continue to be used ornamentally in regions with electricity, especially during the winter holidays, when a glow of light from a candelabrum can be a reminder of brighter times ahead. In some parts of the world, people also use the term “candelabra” to refer to decorative electric light fixtures, although this usage is not technically correct, considering that the word is derived from the Latin candela, which means “candle,” not “lightbulb.” Many interior design stores sell candelabra in a wide range of styles, and you can also find them at antique stores and auctions.

A singular candelabrum can vary widely in size, shape, and styling. Generally, a solid central column connected to a broad base is the support, with arms branching out in a row from the central column. A candelabrum often has two arms on either side of the central column, creating spaces for three candles, although it is possible to find candelabra with many more arms. Some candelabra are quite large, intended for use as free standing pillars of candles on the floor; you can see examples of this style in some churches. Others are smaller, more ideally suited to use on the dinner table or mantel.

In antiquity, candelabra were made from metals like bronze, brass, and silver. In some cultures, clay candleholders with multiple arms were made, and when glass blowing was perfected, ornamental glass candelabra also became available. However, metal continues to be the most common production material for candelabra, presumably because it is extremely sturdy and easy to shape.

The arms of a candelabra may be at the same height, or different heights, and they can be ornamented with leaves, twists, grooves, and other features, or entirely plain. Often, a candelabra has numerous decorative accents like scrolls, foliage, and spirals in the metal which make it ornamental as well as functional. The candles are held in cups which are affixed to the arms and central column.

Many people are familiar with the special multi-armed candelabrum known as a menorah. Menorahs are used during the celebration of Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday. It is also possible, of course, to purchase candelabra with many arms for non-religious use. For particularly ambitious decorators, some companies make giant candelabra which rival those used in Greek and Roman temples in size.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Tomislav — On Aug 31, 2011

@alfredo - I have seen do it yourself wooden candle holders but I have not seen an actual wooden candelabra to make, there are a few instructive articles on candelabras made from other materials!

Since no one has posted on it... it sounds like a perfect idea to blog about!

By aLFredo — On Aug 31, 2011

@tolleranza - I know what you mean. Because the candelabra sconces are not typically large (though I have seen some incredible ones such as a spiral candelabra that was large enough to be placed above a sofa and it was gorgeous) they seem wimpy to hang on the wall by themselves.

My favorite places to put the narrow candelabra sconces are to put matching sconces on both sides of a large painting or picture that you would like to bring more attention to *or* to put different ones (different materials, decor themes) on the staircase wall.

I have seen a recent wooden candelabra that looks like it can be relatively easy to make, has anybody attempted to actually make a wood candelabra?

By tolleranza — On Aug 30, 2011

I use a candelabras to create a beautiful centerpiece on my dining room table. I like them because they come in so many different designs and materials and you can find them relatively inexpensive, yet they always make a statement.

Now I see candelabra sconces and love them as I enjoy the light, the smell of the candles, and the artistry of many of the sconces.

What I have not figured out is just where to put them, none of the places I have tried look quite right. Any ideas?

By StarJo — On Aug 30, 2011

I got a tealight candelabra for Christmas one year. The base is black metal. The legs curve in an S-shape, and the branches take the same shape in a horizontal fashion.

Resting on the edge of the outer curve of each branch is a tray for the tealight. Beneath each tray, colorful beads hang down several inches. There are enough trays with beads to represent every color of the rainbow.

It’s a bit eccentric in design, but so are my tastes. I love the fact that candelabra design has expanded in creativity.

By orangey03 — On Aug 29, 2011

I have an antique candelabra that I use as a centerpiece during family gatherings. I put it in the middle of our long dining room table, away from food and other things that could knock into it.

This candelabra is made of silver, and I got a great deal on it at an antique store, because it was badly tarnished. I used some polish to shine it up, and now it is stunning.

It has seven arms that dip down and outward in various directions. Silver cups shaped like flower buds with petals hanging off of the edges hold the candles and catch any stray melted wax.

By seag47 — On Aug 28, 2011

As a member of a demolition crew, my husband sometimes gets to bring home furniture and accessories from the houses that he tears down. Since no one wanted them, they would otherwise just go to the city dump.

He recently brought home a couple of metal candelabras that are quite beautiful. The silver colored material is made in the design of leaves, and four branches extend outward along the base.

At the end of each branch is a glass holder, and inside each holder is a white tapered candle. I feel secure burning these, because they are attached to the wall, and the glass holders prevent wax from dripping down.

By sunshined — On Aug 28, 2011

I have a beautiful, long candelabra that was given to me by my mom. Every year when I am decorating for the holidays, I set this brass candelabra on top of my buffet.

When there is a special occasion or we have a family dinner, I will light the candles, and it can instantly change the atmosphere of the whole room.

This is a large decorative piece, and the warmth and glow of the candles really adds a soft touch to the whole room.

By bagley79 — On Aug 27, 2011

I think decorative candelabras can add a very nice touch to any room or any decor. I have a candelabra on my fireplace mantel. This is quite tall, and fits very well with the look of the room.

This candelabra has a place where you can put small candles which would be very stunning if they were lit.

I always worry about the danger of starting a fire in my home, so even though I have candles in the holders, they are there more for decoration than to be functional.

By SarahSon — On Aug 26, 2011

Many of the weddings I attend at our church have a candle candelabra on each side of the church. Our church has a few sets of candle candelabras that they use for most wedding ceremonies.

These are matching sets and always look very beautiful when the candles are lit. Since they are tall and elegant, they add a simple yet classic touch the ceremony.

Since these are available for the wedding party to use at no charge, they get used quite often. I know that you can also rent them from wedding shops, but I think it is nice to have one less expense to worry about.

By ysmina — On Aug 26, 2011

The heavy metal candelabra always remind me of horror movies, where the lights go off and the main character starts walking around the haunted mansion with a candelabrum in hand.

Obviously, candelabra have come a long way since then. I was at a home design store the other day and saw really interesting and cool modern design candelabra. My favorites were an asymmetric stainless steel one and another which was again stainless steel but in the shape of a tree branching out. It could hold about 10-15 candles! The crystal hanging candelabra were really nice too.

By ddljohn — On Aug 25, 2011

Candelabra are used for almost all Hindu holidays and religious celebrations too. In Hindi, candelabrum is called "diya." There are many different kinds, shapes and sizes of diyas available.

In my home, we buy small diyas that we place around the house on Diwali, the festival of lights which is in November. We also have a really big tiered diya that we light during puja. Puja is when we worship the different Hindu deities. We usually have poojas at home and invite friends and family to our house. The diya is always in front of the deity where puja is held. It looks very beautiful.

In our religion, diyas are very important because it signifies our devotion to God. It has to be there for all religious ceremonies.

By candyquilt — On Aug 25, 2011

I grew up in my grandfather's house and he had several decorative candelabra that had been passed down as family belongings. My grandparents have roots in Poland and I think the candelabra reminded them of their lives in Europe before coming the U.S.

My grandparents didn't use the candelabra much, other than on special occasions and dinners for decoration. My grandfather would also light one for me if the electricity went out and I needed to do homework.

These are very fond memories and I think for many people like my family, candelabra are valuable items that one wants to keep in the family.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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