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  • Lava lamps might be the most cult item of lighting in the world.

  • Since their invention in 1963, millions of lamps have been sold across the globe.

  • And while their popularity has gone through ups and downs, their instantly recognizable style isn't going anywhere.

  • But what actually goes into creating these iconic lamps?

  • This simple, yet hypnotic lamp came from pretty humble origins.

  • Inventor Edward Craven Walker came up with the idea after spotting a handmade egg timer that used heated wax in a cocktail shaker.

  • And after seeing this and months of testing his ideas and adapting this concept into a colorful lamp, Walker came up with his final design: as it was called at the time, the Astro Lamp.

  • The idea was patented, and Walker started the company now known as Mathmos.

  • Mathmos has now been creating lamps for over 50 years, and while it's introduced new designs, the original remains its top seller.

  • So, how is it actually made?

  • The process starts with custom glass bottles.

  • Glass is blown into the shape required for each lamp.

  • Molten blobs of glass are dropped into a mold.

  • A machine blows air into the top of the bottle to shape it,

  • and the newly shaped bottles are then released and cooled.

  • While this is all done mechanically, everything is checked over by hand.

  • The bottles are inspected, and any that don't make the cut are discarded.

  • Quality control is crucial, as each bottle needs to fit perfectly into its housing and the glass need to withstand constant heating and cooling.

  • The next part of the process is metal spinning, a process that takes a thin sheet of steel and bends it around a spinning tool to create the right shape.

  • Each base and cap is hand spun, and then the resulting pieces are polished.

  • Once these two components are finished, the lamp is ready to be filled.

  • The liquid is added along with a metal spring that helps distribute the heat.

  • The exact formula of the fluid is a well-guarded secret, but there's one key to it: density.

  • There are two main components in a lava lamp: a colored wax and a colored solution that it sits in.

  • As the lamp heats up, the density of the wax changes and it begins to float in the liquid.

  • When it hits the top, it cools and falls back down.

  • Getting the density of these two ingredients just right, though, is where the secret knowledge comes in.

  • Stephen Sharkey: It wasn't a room much bigger than this, but it was split in half.

  • Teaspoon, chemical, bit of chemistry set, little bit of this, little bit of that.

  • Does it work?

  • On the other side was actually a little bit of spinning to make the spinning.

  • And it sort of evolved from there, really.

  • Our unique production side is the bottle filling.

  • There are only a few people here on-site that actually know the ingredients, and there are loads of people in this company that are not allowed to know how that product is made.

  • Once the two liquids are mixed, the bottle is submerged in hot water.

  • This water bath cleanly separates out the liquids and stops any wax that would be stuck to the side of the bottle.

  • Lids are glued on, and the bottles are ready to go.

  • Mathmos has sold millions of its lamps over the years.

  • The design is so true to the original that you could still buy the spare parts for a lamp made in 1965.

  • And at its peak popularity in the '90s, it was selling over 800,000 lamps a year.

  • Sharkey: I think it represents the '60s, the 1960s, when the world was changing.

  • The iconic brand, for me, relates to the fact that it's still manufactured here in Britain.

  • It's still manufactured in the same process.

  • It's still built in the same place.

  • But more importantly, it's still part of the original design, which makes it such an icon.

Lava lamps might be the most cult item of lighting in the world.

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