At Ashby Interiors many of the lights and lamps we sell are from the Art Deco period with chrome fittings. We all familiar with chrome but how much do we really know about it?
It became hugely popular in the Art Deco era and chrome plated decorative items became synonymous with style and good looks. It was resistant to rust, easy to clean and has a brilliant luxury shine.
Hidden beneath the silver appearance of the chrome plate on your Art Deco lamp is usually brass base metal. During the Art Nouveau period brass was the most commonly used metal in lighting components. Chrome plating the brass was easily done and as brass is resistant to rust it gave the chrome finish a long life.
Chrome has a chemical symbol of ‘Cr’ on the periodic table. Although we most commonly associate it with chrome plate, its largest use is in the manufacture of stainless steel.
Chrome got its name from the Greek word Khroma – meaning colour as chrome was used to produce vivid colourful compounds and has been used in paints and dyes for thousands of years.
Where is Chrome found? Chrome is mined as Chromite - Around two fifths is excavated in South Africa with the remainder found in Russia, Kazakhstan, India and Turkey. Chromite is the 22nd most abundant element in the earth’s crust.
The process used to apply the layer of chrome onto the base metal is electroplating. The chrome plating process was introduced in the 1920’s by George Sargent and a commercial process was introduced by Fink and Eldridge.
In simple terms, electroplating is achieved by passing an electric current between two electrodes which are immersed in an electrolyte bath comprising of chromic acid. One of the electrodes will be the item which is to be plated. During the flow of electricity between the two electrodes, chromium atoms are deposited in a layer on the electrode to be plated.
And the results look luxurious and require minimum cleaning, unlike the brass base metal which would have required regular polishing to retain shine. One word of warning, if you buy an Art Deco era Chrome light or lamp don’t get over-zealous in cleaning it as you may well rub through to the brass base metal...
Take a look at our range of Art Deco and White Glass lighting here. The cool look of chrome is so different to the warmth of brass. It’s just a matter of personal taste which you may prefer.