Most would have chucked the chandelier in the bin. Having been the only thing I could save from Jo’s house before it was demolished, I knew I had to find a way to get it back to working order and restore it to its former glory.
That said, it was a pretty ordinary chandelier. One of many that had been en vogue when factory-made reproduction furniture and lighting had flooded the local market with cheaply-made items in the 60s. As always happens though, trends come and go, and chandeliers would later be consigned to the no-pile before experiencing a resurgence on the shabby-chic wave that I’m personally not a huge fan of.
Not only was the chandelier filthy, but more than half of its crystals had fallen off over the years and this meant that they would need to be sourced, matched and restrung. I’m always up for a challenge though, and with Jo’s house-warming party in the not-so-distant future, I set about figuring out how on earth I was going to bring this chandelier back to life.
When looking at chandeliers, you might think that the crystals are held together by string or wires. They’re actually held together by thin pins with a flat end, not unlike long nails. The pins are threaded through the holes in the crystals, twisted with pliers into a loop and then, once the next crystal has had a pin threaded through its hole, the pin is threaded through the loop before being twisted into its own loop.
Sounds complicated? It is. But with a bit of patience and this excellent video, I soon mastered the art of pinning chandelier crystals. As always, having the correct tools is the most important step. It will make your life much easier and the experience far more enjoyable.
To restore crystal chandeliers you’ll need a pair of round-nose pliers and chandelier pins. If you intend on re-wiring the chandelier yourself, I would suggest that you first ensure that you’ve got a basic knowledge of electrics. There’s a great DIY short course at MCAST which I did and it helped loads. As always, whatever you do electrics-wise, please do so under the supervision of a qualified electrician. All the pliers and pins are available online, but if you need them fast, the larger hardware stores should have the pliers and Pisani Lights on the Hamrun High Street usually has the pins.
With regards to the existing crystals, I decided to remove all the old pins as they were all pretty rusty. I simply washed the crystals in hot water with washing-up liquid. Once laid flat, I could see how many crystals were missing and I set about completing the set. It took ages, particularly because the long crystals are in great demand since many church chandeliers are strung with them, so they’re swiftly snapped up for spares. I could have ordered them all from Pisani Lights, but that would have been quite an expense, so with my crystal shopping-list in hand, I set out to the Birgu Sunday Market weekly over the course of several months. I had to visit several times until I found all the pieces that I needed. Some sellers have them ready-cleaned in boxes whilst others had old chandeliers that I bought for a couple of Euro to salvage the crystals off them.
With all the crystals removed, I re-wired the chandelier and gave it a coating of light grey spray paint as I knew Jo’s house was to have a pastel colour palette. Then began the slow process of re-pinning all the crystals but with good music and a comfortable chair, the task flew past.
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