Bohemian mantle lusters are glass Victorian candlesticks with dangling prisms. It was considered the height of luxury during the Victorian era to own at least one set of mantle lusters for display on mantles, sideboards or tables. Mantle lusters are characteristically ornate, colored glass pieces with variations in height, design, decoration and prisms. Mantle lusters have been made all over Europe and North America, but the Bohemian varieties were made in the Czech Republic. Look for mantle lusters at secondhand stores, antique shops, estate sales and online auctions. The price will vary according to the age, condition and amount of lusters or prisms on the piece.
Look for dangling prisms to verify the mantle lusters are authentic. Bohemian mantle lusters will have at least one row of prisms around the perimeter of the piece. While one row is most common and two rows are a rare find. Rarer still, up to five rows of prisms have been known to encircle the edge of the mantle lusters. Bohemian mantle lusters will vary in the number and length of their prisms. The length of the lusters depends on the height of the whole piece. The lusters were thought to project more light as they dangled outside the candle area.
Examine the base of a Bohemian mantle luster as it should be shaped like a pedestal with intricate curves. The stem of the lusters will vary in width. Some will be thin and narrow like that of a wine glass while others are thicker or wider with deeper grooves and curves.
Look for variations on the rim designs of the mantle lusters. Many were detailed with scallops or ruffled edges resembling a tulip. Another variation shows the edges down-turned and scalloped at the bottom edge. The Bohemian mantle lusters were made in the mid to late 1800s and showcase hand-painted designs.
Examine the glass of the mantle lusters, as it will vary in color and clarity. The colored glass varieties can be found in red, green and blue tones. Milk glass was also commonly used. The glass was etched, painted, enameled and gilded in ornate patterns. While many colors can be found, red is the most common and blue is the rarest, especially the cobalt blue.
If you're beginning an antique collection you'll find single lusters at a lower price than pairs. The pairs were often split up among siblings when handed down a generation.
Often the gilding is worn off in places due to the age of the glass. This is a natural part of the aging process.