Fireplace andirons are an essential part of your fireplace's aesthetic experience as well as its safety. The right andiron will help keep the logs stable as well as allow air to flow for efficient burning; another benefit of andirons that many people may not realize is that they reduce the wear and tear from excessive heat on the fireplace's bottom. One of our best sellers at eFireplaceStore.com is the Black Wrought Iron Fireplace Andirons. This sturdy model weighs approximately 20 lbs. and will not sway or bow under a heavy stack of logs, which means no logs rolling out of the fireplace and on the floor. Or take a look at the modern andirons from Pilgrim. Andirons not only protect your fireplace, but they can also add some real character and interest to your fireplace's appearance.
Modern andirons are mainly decorative, but they originally served the same purpose as a fireplace grate. The andirons would have cast iron shanks that extend rearward and held your load of wood and the andirons would prevent the wood from falling out of the fireplace opening. For your purposes, the andirons would simply sit in front or to the side of the grate for decoration.
How do you decide between an andiron versus a grate? Can you use both simultaneously?
You can indeed use both andirons and a grate together. Authentic andirons had large shanks that stood several inches from the hearth floor, allowing wood to be piled on the shanks and combustion air to be drawn from below to fuel the fire. Because fireplace grates do a superior job of supporting partially burned logs, the andirons faded from use. They are predominantly made for appearance, rather than function now. A grate should be used as the primary mechanism for a wood fire.