Vintage lava lamps are a unique and iconic decorative item that was popular in the late 60s and 70s. The mesmerizing lava lamps were primarily used for their relaxing visual effects and as a conversation starter. Despite their popularity declining since their peak, lava lamps are still a highly sought-after item by collectors and enthusiasts today.
This article will take you on a nostalgic journey through the polyester era and explore the history, design, and cultural significance of vintage lava lamps.
History of Lava Lamps
The Birth of the Lava Lamp
The first lava lamp was invented by British entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker in 1963. Walker was inspired by a peculiar egg timer he saw in a pub. He bought the rights to the design and invented a prototype of the lava lamp.
The original lamp was named “Astro,” and it had a cylindrical shape with a glass bottle filled with water and wax. When the lamp was turned on, the heat from the bulb would melt the wax, making it rise to the top of the bottle. As it cooled, it would sink back down, creating a mesmerizing lava-like effect.
The Popularity of Lava Lamps
The unique and mesmerizing effect of the lava lamp made it an instant hit with the flower power generation of the 60s and 70s. The psychedelic décor of the era, along with the lava lamp’s soothing light, made it an instant classic.
The popularity of lava lamps only continued to rise throughout the 70s, where the lamps were seen in movies, music videos, and even on album covers.
Design of Lava Lamps
The Science Behind the Lava Lamp
The unique design of the lava lamp is due to the combination of water, wax, and heat. The wax used in the lamps is typically a blend of paraffin wax, microcrystalline wax, and mineral oil. When heated, the wax expands and becomes less dense than water, causing it to rise to the top.
The globe-shaped lamps come in a variety of sizes ranging from miniature to giant-sized lamps. The glass globes are typically made of high-quality borosilicate glass, which can withstand high temperatures and prevent shattering.
The Colorful Awesomeness of Lava Lamps
The unique and colorful designs on lava lamps are a big part of their appeal. The wax used in the lamps comes in a variety of colors, including red, blue, green, pink, and purple. The colors can be mixed and matched to create different effects.
The designs on lava lamps can also vary, such as the classic continuous flow design, the Chinese lantern design, or even custom-designed lamps.
Cultural Significance of Lava Lamps
The Lava Lamp in Pop Culture
The lava lamp’s cultural influence can be seen in movies like Austin Powers, where it was a prominent décor item in the character’s shagadelic pad. Lava lamps were also seen in other popular culture icons like That 70s Show, The Simpsons, and even in music videos like Jimmy Buffet’s “Volcano.”
Lava Lamps and Nostalgia
For many, vintage lava lamps represent a connection to a bygone era. The lamps are a reminder of the radical social changes, experimentation, and free-spiritedness of the 60s and 70s. A vintage lava lamp can be a beautiful addition to a living room, a conversation starter, or even a reminder of simpler times.