Newest Review: ... have always been fascinated with these lamps since seeing them on old black and white TV programmes way back in the 60s. They would often... more
A beautiful decorative lamp
Member Name: alyson29
Date: 04/10/10, updated on 26/02/11 (152 review reads)
Advantages: Look absolutely stunning and very relaxing
Disadvantages: Cannot be using as lighting
A decorative item that I have grown to love over the last ten years is the lava lamp, an invention of the swinging sixties. It's quite uncanny when you think about it that a lamp that is absolutely useless for lighting would become so popular. Some of you may recall the hilarious episode of the very popular 70's sitcom George and Mildred. The couple climbed the social ladder and moved into a new house on a rather upmarket housing estate next door to a rather posh couple named the Fourmiles. Mildred's lava lamp was her pride and joy, much to George's disgust!
Whilst I was aware that lava lamps had been around for many years, I had absolutely no idea where or when they were invented and by whom. Consequently, I carried out a little research and discovered that in 1948 an inventor by the name of Craven Walker was sitting in a pub enjoying a quiet drink when he spotted an unusual looking lamp, which he described as "a contraption made out of a cocktail shaker, old tins and things". Walker was determined to create something more spectacular and during the next ten years he set about the challenge. As a result, he created the lava lamp as we know today, which he named "Astro" and in 1964 he took it to a trade show in Brussels.
Walker was soon to make his fortune when Adolph Wertheimer and his partner Hy Spector took an instant liking to the lamp and they subsequently bought the rights to retail it in the United States. As a result, the lamps were manufactured in Chicago and renamed the Lava Lite and are still being built there today under the name of Lava World International.
Whilst the lava lamp is not suitable for lighting a room due to its' low 25 watt bulb, I simply love to switch mine on, particularly in the cold and dark winter months when I will gaze at the beautiful colours, which are totally relaxing and calming. I will often find myself dropping off to sleep, particularly as I find it so tranquil watching that bright blob of colourful wax that gently floats up and down.
I really had no idea of how a lava lamp operated or what it contained to create such beautiful blobs of colour. Whilst I was aware that the lamp contains a specially designed bulb, which will subsequently heat the contents of the glass, I was unsure how the wax was able to travel. I have since discovered that the glass is filled with a combination of water, wax and carbon tetrachloride and you may have noticed that located at the base of the lamp is a small wire coil, which will increase the heat.
As the wax is of a different concentration to that of the water it will simply float when the lamp is switched off. However, when the power is switched on is when the real magic begins due to the fact that a non-flammable solvent has been added to the wax. This subsequently allows the wax to become a very similar density to that of the water and create a floating effect. The wax will become hot when it nears the base of the glass due to the wire coil and as it glides to the top it will slowly cool and then return to the bottom and so on.
Lava lamps were extremely popular in the 60's and 70's and sadly the craze died down in the 80's. However, during the 90's the extremely eye-catching item once again became extremely fashionable and to this current day they can be found in the majority of good lighting stores. I was surprised to discover that there are so many "recipes" on the internet giving instructions on how to make your own, although this is not something I would ever consider attempting due to the fact that I would probably blow up our house!
Unfortunately, my purchases of lava lamps have been rather unsuccessful, particularly as each one that I have owned has only lasted a matter of months as for some reason they simply stopped working. The reason I initially purchased one of these lamps was that I was going through a period where I found it extremely difficult to relax, particularly as I always had to be doing something and would very rarely sit down. Consequently, I placed my lamp on the hearth and would turn out all the lights and just gaze at the blob of wax as it slowly bobbed up and down inside the glass and created a somewhat hypnotising affect.
Whilst I am unsure if all of the designs are similar, the ones I have owned were in two pieces where you would need to place the glass section onto the top of the base unit. My first hubby, who was somewhat clumsy, dropped the glass section of one of my lamps and as a result, our living room carpet was covered in glittery water and wax! The lamp I currently own does not contain glitter and is simply a basic wax version of calming greens with a chrome base section. Whilst the majority of lava lamps are mains operated, I am aware that there are a few that have been specifically designed for children and are battery operated.
As I am a real fan of this beautiful lamp I often trawl the internet searching for new designs. Although I do not have any intention of starting a lava lamp collection, I always love looking at the stunning new creations. The lamps are manufactured in hundreds of colours and sizes where you are able to purchase versions especially designed for children, such as the aquarium lamp, which contains dozens of tiny fish!
If you're wanting something to help you relax why not choose the original Astra Lamp or if you're a bit of a glitter bug why not choose something pink and girly with lots of sparkling coloured glitter? I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there is even a lamp that is powered by your pc, namely the USB lava lamp!
You should be aware that lava lamps take a little while to heat up, so you should allow up to an hour or so for the 25 watt bulb to provide heat to the metal wire and subsequently heat the blob of wax. If your home is extremely cold, particularly in the winter months, this could process could take considerably longer. Once the lamp is in operation the glass becomes extremely hot and care should be taken not to knock or move it.
I would have to advise at this stage that a lava lamp should never be heated by anything other than its' intended bulb. I recently watched the television programme 1001 Ways To Die and a rather drugged and alcohol induced guy decided to speed up the process and subsequently placed his lava lamp in the microwave. Yes, the microwave! Consequently, the contents of the lamp overheated, the glass exploded, the microwave door shot open and showered the guy with shards of glass; one of which entered his heart and killed him!
The prices of lava lamps differ considerably with your basic 12 inch high astra lamp retailing for around £30 - £40. You could even choose the 24 inch high lamp, which is currently being sold by Argos for £45.
In order to provide accurate information I have used various websites to research this product and subsequently written this review in my own words to enable me to advise you of both the mechanics and history of the beautiful lava lamp.
I hope you have found this useful and would thank you for reading.
Summary: A beautiful lamp from the 60's
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