top of page

Chandelier Prisms and Their Many Uses

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

Are you looking for new ways to upgrade and enhance your home decor? MyCurioHome offers an array of crystal prisms that can be easily added to your lighting fixtures, as well as adapted in a multitude of brilliant ways. Besides lighting crystal prisms can also be hung from windows to create sun catchers which refract light throwing sparkles and rainbows around a room. They can also be repurposed into jewelry designs, flower displays and vases, ornaments, as well as add a sparkle to product displays and advertisements. These prisms come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and we are here to help you find the perfect pieces to elevate your design needs.


General Prism Parts

Crystal prisms get their shine from small facets cut along their surface which help them to reflect and refract light, giving them their dazzling appearance. The word prism traditionally refers to a pendant with parallel sides, but has become a generic term in the lighting industry to denote any glass or crystal part that dresses or trims a chandelier.


The general makeup of a prism consists of its body which is the main prism shape, and a head (sometimes also called a jewel) which, as the name suggests is positioned above the body. The head is normally a smaller octagonal prism (although it is occasionally square). The head acts as additional ornamentation but its main function is so that it can be attached and dangled from different parts of the chandelier. The body and head are connected by one or two prism pins which are fitted through pin holes drilled at the top of the prism body and at top and bottom of the head.


Crystal and Glass Types

These prisms can be made from a variety of materials allowing for different amounts of clarity and refractive ability. Some crystal types are made by adding the compound lead oxide into them which allows for different amounts of clarity. A higher percentage of lead oxide allows for more reflective ability and transparency. Glass is categorized by its chemical makeup and manufacturing method and falls roughly into these categories:

Rock Crystal: One of the earliest types of crystal used, it is a naturally occurring material found in the earth's crust, which must be mined and polished. It is not completely pure or see-through, but contains natural veins creating a unique style entirely its own. It does not contain lead oxide, but is made primarily of quartz.


Venetian and Murano Glass: These are hand blown or mouth blown glasses that do not contain lead oxide, but are made with soda glass, (also called soda-lime or soda-lime-silica glass) a highly moldable material that can be easily shaped into a variety of forms.


Czech, Heritage, Regal, Crystalique, Turkish Cut Crystal: These are all hand cut crystals primarily made in traditional ways on sandstone or iron wheels and polished with marble dust. They often contain markings from the hand cutting process and are not perfectly transparent.


K-9 Crystal: A mass produced crystal created through extremely high temperatures, and a slow cooling process generating good clarity and reflectivity. It contains a lower lead oxide content around 9% so it is not quite as brilliant as those with a higher content. K-4 contains a lead content at about 4%.


Egyptian/Gemcut/Moroccan Crystal: This is a machine cut crystal which creates sharp faceting and great optical purity with a high lead oxide content between 24% to 30%.


Swarovski: The most well known and greatest quality crystal in the industry, it is machine made in the Austrian Alps, and allows for the most brilliance and clarity out of all options. The top of the Swarovski crystals line is called “Strass” which has a lead oxide content of 30% or higher making it extremely clear and brilliant and each piece is marked with their etched logo.


They also developed Swarovski Elements and Spectra lines. Swarovski later developed AQ/Advanced Crystal Formula which allows for the same brilliance, but brings the lead oxide level down to 0.009%.


Prism Types

In this article MyCurioHome will primarily focus on detailing different prism shapes and styles to help familiarize you with the multitude of options, and ultimately help you find the right choice for your lighting fixture, interior design needs, or creative project.


Chandelier trimmings fall into very broad categories each with a wide array of variation. We will do our best to explain all these varieties for you, but please don't ever hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Almonds

These prisms present an almond shaped body usually with the top end pointed and a rounded bottom end. They are sometimes referred to as pears, but almond describes them most correctly. The front of them is many-faceted in a star-like pattern creating a point while the back is primarily flat with beveled edges. Often these come with a small octagonal head that attaches at the pointed end of the prism.


This variation of almond prisms has a completely flattened back while the front is faceted giving it two different profiles.


Full Cut Almond

These prims are faceted with both the front and back being identical.


This cut refers to the uniformly shaped cuts on the prisms surface like those done on a diamond. The front and back face are cut the same with facets leading to a flattened face.


These prisms have a smooth, round front and a flat back with no faceting.


Pendalogues, also spelled pendalog or pendeloque, are another common variety of prism with a multitude of different varieties. They primarily have ornate scalloped edges with a flat back and a thin bevel leading to either flat or secondary-bevel on their front face. The edge scallop design is often rounded and very much in keeping with a baroque aesthetic. These prisms are bilaterally symmetrical and are longer than they are wide. There are so many varieties it is impossible to describe a complete commonality between them.


Elongated Prisms

This category describes a range of prisms most identifiable by their long or slender lengths, adding an elegant look to chandeliers.


This is a long, thin prism with 6 bevels along its edges giving it a six-sided appearance with a slender profile. The body starts slender at the top where it hangs, gradually becoming wider before it drastically tapers to a point at the bottom. The spear-pointed bottom is cut with three rows of 6 small bevels. MyCurioHome offers u-drops in a variety of sizes and colors.


Plug Drops

The plug drop is a thicker and shorter version of the U-drop. It has a shorter tapered length that gets wider as well as tapers more quickly than the U-drop. The point has only 1 row of small facets at the transition from body to point.


Spears

Spears consist of a variety of 3-sided smooth surface prisms and reflect the traditional meaning of prism in that they have parallel sides and in cross section are triangular, either equilateral or isosceles. These prisms have a concave neck with a rounded appearance that leads to a spear point which gives them their name.


These have no ornamentation cut into their surface.


These have a decorative edge pattern cut along the front facing point.


Heavy Cut Spear

Have a very slight beveling along the edge of the other two vertices giving the spear a slightly heavier look.


These prisms have a long body with parallel sides. Similarly to spears these are also triangular in cross section but with only 2 sides the same length. They are made up of isosceles triangles with a base much longer than their other two sides. This causes the front facing vertex to be less pronounced giving the colonial a more flattened look and delicate appearance. The top where the Colonial hangs is flat, and the bottom tapers very quickly to a simple point with no additional faceting.


There is variation in that some Colonials do have a slight beveling along their sides, and some have no point at all but are tapered along the top and bottom to meet the facing vertex. Others do have patterns cut into their front faces with the most common patterns being Stars and Leafs, creating the names Star Colonial and Leaf Colonial. Colonial prisms generally come with a square head rather than octagonal.


These prisms have slender, round bodies and a bulb on bottom. Some have straight bodies that end in an almost round sphere, others taper wider from top to bottom with a narrow bulb on the bottom creating an elongated tear shape. These come in a variety of thicknesses and bulb diameters with a slender body and subtle bulb being the most common, however, thicker varieties are also easily found. Tear Drops have either the standard octagon head or a small round or a faceted bead head. We offer tears in a variety of shapes and sizes.


Brigg Drops

A cross between a Spear and U-Drop these prisms are much less common. The Brigg Drop is flat rather than triangular in cross section. It features a flat back, and beveled front leading to a flat face, and a thin horizontal V cut near the bottom. This creates a very slight neck before it tapers to a point. Unfortunately this shape is no longer in production.


This prism features a body that tapers wider from top to bottom before it tapers to a point at its concave cut rounded neck. The front face either has a very shallow bevel coming to a point at the front vertex or has a slight bevel with a flat face both front and back. Frog Drops come with octagon heads.


These prisms are mainly spherically shaped with a small bump or handle on top that creates the pin hole. They usually attach to an octagon head, or are linked in short strands. Balls are usually hung from the very bottom of the chandelier to finish it and can be attached to one or more octagons.


Plain Ball

Completely spherical and smooth in shape with no cuts or facets .


Cut Ball

Machine cut creating, sharp facets and more refraction of light.


These give off the appearance of having facets but their pattern comes from being pressed into a mold and has softer edging then that of a Cut Ball.


Swarovski Strass Ball

These differ slightly from other balls in that they generally have a slight inverted V shape at top through which the pin hole is drilled. In larger sizes Strass or AQ can be quite expensive, but the sparkle is exquisite.


These are a variety of shapes that can look very much like what you would imagine when you think of the jewel in a diamond ring. In fact, we have sold these shapes for use in movies and advertising.


Jewels

This category refers to the different heads attached to prisms, it can refer to octagon, square, round, and bead shaped heads.


Octagons

When viewed straight on they are 8 sided. The front face is faceted to a point and the back is also faceted, but the facets extend for only millimeters and most of the back face remains flat. These generally have 2 very small pin holes drilled into them, one on top and another at bottom where prism pins are fed through in order to create heads for larger prisms, or chains of octagons.

Octagons appear radially symmetrical, but in reality they are slightly longer top to bottom than in width.


Instead of individually decorating the top of another prism, octagons can also be strung together in long chains or short strands (as few as two or three individual octagons). Chains are sold in meter lengths but MyCurioHome can pin them smaller to fit your needs. Occasionally an almond is attached to the bottom of a strand of octagons and these strands are hung around the bottom edge of a fixture, or the bottom of an arm.


Uniform and Graduated Chain

Chains of octagons are strung along the chandelier in various ways. This helps both to fill in otherwise empty areas and of course adds sparkle. Chains can be uniform with all octagons the same size or graduated where the sizes vary from small to large over the length of the chain. It is also common to see various configurations of baguettes or coffin prisms within the chain adding variety and elegance to the chandelier. Chains can also be strung together by use of a divider so that the chains section out into two, three or four directions, depending on the intended design.


Dividers come with two, three, or four pin holes and come in both square and round shapes. Square dividers have a straight-sided lip along their outer edge and are about a millimeter thick. Both the front face and back face have beveling, but the front face is flat and ends in a point.

Round dividers are cut like the octagon with the front face coming to a point and the back face displaying beveling, but with a flat face. These come in multiple sizes measured in millimeters.


Beads

Beads are spherical and can be either smooth, faceted in a symmetrically uniform way around the entire bead, or English Cut which is faceted in an irregular manner giving the bead an irregular chunky look. English cut beads are rare these days, however, MyCurioHome still has a supply of hard-to-find English cut beads. Beads can be strung in uniform chains and sold in meter lengths as these are generally draped around a chandelier.


Noodle Beads

These are cylindrical beads reminiscent of a noodle, but much shorter in proportion. They come in a variety of different diameters and lengths. These are not common anymore but MyCurioHome does stock a small selection. They can also be easily adapted into jewelry making and provide a unique design focus.


Rosettes are flower-like prisms with 10 petals. The backs are flat and the front face is slightly rounded. Rosettes are used to hide where glass panels are joined together and have a pin hole in the center which gives the fixture a finished look. They come in multiple sizes and colors. Stars are shaped with 8-points and like Rosettes are used to obscure panels within chandeliers.


Kites are diamond shaped with the top extending longer toward a slight flattened top while the shorter length bottom is pointed. Generally they have a flat back face while the front is multifaceted to a very small but flat front face. Similar to a Kite, Coffins are shaped after their namesake, with an extended top. However the sides are parallel before pointing inward toward a flat bottom. The wide, flat back face has a small bevel while the front face is multifaceted to a point.


Straight, parallel sided and generally without ornamentation such as cutting or faceting. Triangular in cross section with a long front vertex. They have a square top and bottom beveled to meet the front vertex point.


Angular

Not a formal category used in the lighting industry, we have used this term to categorize a small group of prisms that do not quite fit into the other categories. These are trapezoidal in shape with a narrow lip on their edge to help define the shape and a flat back. The front has four wide bevels that meet at a point and pin holes on top and bottom. These prisms are most often used in the middle of graduated chains to add contrasting size and shape from the octagons.


Finials come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and materials. These can be used instead of balls to finish the bottom of a chandelier or used as decorative additions to table lamps to hold the shade in place. As such they are threaded with either the standard 1/8 IP thread or the smaller 1/4-27 thread allowing them to be screwed on.


Finial Spikes

Glass spikes are unthreaded and meant to be cemented to the bottom of a chandelier as a finishing flourish.


Available in a variety of styles and finishes to provide a modern or antique look for the design of the chandelier. Pins come in several finishes including Brass, Chrome, and Antiqued.


Head pin

A straight pin with a machine flattened head. Available in lengths from 1" to 3" in 1/4"half-inch increments and in either brass or chrome. These are inserted into the pinhole of the prism, with the head meant to stop the pin from pulling all the way through, they are bent into a hook or curled into interlocking ringlets to attach prisms together


Crushed Head pins

The heads of these pins are crushed into shape and create an antique look.


Snake Pins

A single pin with the center twisted to make a looping structure that looks like a snake. These pins have no head and a single pin is used to connect two prisms. The ends are inserted into the pinholes and bent to secure it into place.


"C" pins

A single wire bent to look like a single link in the shape of a "C". These are used to give a simple look to chains of prisms.


Bowties Connectors and End Hooks

Exclusive to Strass/Elements/AQ and Spectra Swarovski. These are a single pin with a bowtie shape to connect two prisms. Each end is inserted into the pin hole and bent to secure it into place. The End Hook is used on the top jewel to attach it to the fixture.


Our list isn't by any means an exhaustive description of all the shapes and varieties. It doesn't list the wide variety of fruit shapes, for example. It is meant to give a brief overview of the most common shapes and trimming you will find in a wide variety of chandeliers. MyCurioHome carries most of the shapes noted here but if there is something you are looking for specifically please reach out to us as we can generally find it.


Crystal prisms will certainly give your lighting fixture an elegant look and the way they reflect and refract light is unmatched for delivering sheer beauty and sparkle in your home.

 

Thank you to these additional sources for augmenting our knowledge and experience:


24 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page