The French company Baccarat was the first to make crystal lighting and its Zénith chandelier, created in the early 19th century, has been reinterpreted by designers including Philippe Starck, Jaime Hayon and the Campana Brothers. Its ceremonial chandeliers feature in some of the grandest palaces and hotels of Europe, such as the Negresco hotel in Nice, where a 4.6-metre tall light with 16,800 drop beads hangs in the central hall.
However, the Zénith is the company’s signature piece and has featured in every Baccarat catalogue since it was designed. Prices start from £16,600 for a basic eight-light model rising up to the full 84-light model. Starck’s limited edition, 24-light version in black costs about £52,000. The partnership with the Frenchman was one of Baccarat’s first celebrity designer collaborations. Starck later created a second version wrapped round an umbrella. In another version, Louise Campbell played with the placing of the elements to create a distorted effect, while the Campanas simply covered theirs in a large bamboo basket.
“The Zénith is an iconic example of superb craftsmanship, elegance and timelessness,” says Daniela Riccardi, Baccarat chief executive.
The company opened as a glassworks in 1764 in the village of Baccarat, on the banks of the river Meurthe in Lorraine, and converted to a crystal works in 1816. In 1827, it became the first company in the country to exhibit chandeliers and a shop was opened shortly afterwards. By 1886, Baccarat had branches in India, Cuba and Argentina, soon followed by outlets in Hanoi, Uruguay and Mexico. Ten years later, the company became the first to convert its chandeliers to electricity. Baccarat was also a pioneer in social policy, setting up insurance and retirement plans for its workers and free schooling for their children.
This year the company has introduced another new version, the Zénith 84, made from red and clear crystal to echo the coloured chandeliers in the Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul, which has the largest collection of Baccarat chandeliers in the world.