Question: Like weathervanes and cupolas, finials are decorative architectural pieces affixed upon high areas of a building, rooftop or other structure. Weathervanes and cupolas traditionally served a functional purpose, in fact they still can and do: weathervanes indicate the direction of the wind and cupolas help ventilate any structural rooftop. Finials, however, have always served as more ornamental pieces, making any edificial top, end, or corner a little more pleasing to the eye. Nevertheless, there is some speculation that finials could, and do, function as lighting rods; and in more historical times they were thought to act as a deterrent to witches on broomsticks who intended to land them on your roof.As an architectural device, the finial is typically carved from stone and is used to embellish the apex of any rooftop, building or structure. Churches, particularly Mormon Temples, are a great example of the type of building where finials are often found. Architectural finials are also found in several styles: Italianate, Gothic, and Gothic Revival. Italianate is a 19th century style with picturesque aesthetics representing a sort of neo-renaissance architectural model with shallow hips and wooden brackets along the roof that appeared flat. Gothic and Gothic Revival styles pose the alternative to Italianate; they were 19th century styles as well, but represented a more medieval style with pointed arches and frosted class that were seeming contrary to the classical designs prevalent at the time. Finials didnt just adorn buildings and rooftops. More uncommonly known, but just as widespread, was the use of finials on furniture. Roman chairs, for example, were fashioned out of wood with high backs and posts. The upright portion of the chair would feature the design of the crest rail, the curved piece of the top of the back of the chair. These crest rails often featured finials, and were sometimes carved in the shapes of animals or other figures. Today, chairs designed in similar Roman style will also feature finials. Finials are also found in more unrecognizable places. Whether they are designed as simple spheres or more elaborate shapes, finials can decorate windows and curtain rods, wood picket fences, and wrought iron fences. Finials are also ideal for topping the columns of gates and gateways. Finials are also making a comeback into contemporary gardens. Thought to ward off evil spirits, the Chinese incorporated porcelain finials into their garden areas. This custom grew in popularity among western gardens, and today ball and pointed finials (named for their shapes) are now making their way back into the gardens of home owners and landscapers. Once hard to come by, finials are no longer antiques. Their elegance and beauty make contemporary finials an increasingly popular decorative item.