Fun Facts About Neon and Neon Signs

Fun Facts About Neon and Neon Signs

A colored, flashing neon sign outside a storefront readily catches your attention. These signs have, over the years, proven an effective advertising medium for businesses around the world. Neon signs have a long history. In 1902, French chemist Georges Claude applied an electric current to a tube containing neon gas, creating the first lamp comprising of the noble gas.

For over two centuries, neon continues to prove its effectiveness in round-the-clock advertising. There are, however, a lot of fun facts about this marketing tool. Here are some of the main ones about the signs and the gas that makes them glow.


The Discovery of Neon

Neon was discovered by William Ramsay (Scottish) and Morris Travers (English) in 1898, a short while after their discovery of krypton. A frozen argon sample, along with liquefied air, slowly evaporated in a low-pressure environment for the first production of neon gas. To observe the spectrum, the scientists ran a high-voltage current through a sealed tube containing the gas. This step resulted in the emission of a brilliant glow. It is from this observation that neon got its name, which in Latin means 'new.' In its natural state, the gas is colorless and has an atomic number of 10.


French Origins

When Georges Claude came up with the idea of neon lighting at the beginning of the 20th century, he brought about the idea of producing the gas via air liquefaction. At the time of discovery, the current passed through a sealed tube containing the noble gas initiated a chain reaction that culminated in the emission of a reddish-orange light. After an initial display of the neon lamp in 1910, further advancements saw the production of neon discharge tubes for public use in the years that followed.


Neon: Both Rare and Abundant

The earth's atmosphere contains only 0.0018 percent neon, making it a rare gas. In the universe, however, the gas ranks fifth in the most abundant elements. By composition, the universe is one part per 750. The only method of producing neon is by the liquefaction of air. A rarity in the atmosphere makes neon an expensive gas in terms of production expenses, costing approximately 55 times more than liquid helium. Despite its rarity and high production costs, the average American home has an estimated 10 liters of neon. Production of neon in the stars is through the alpha process.


The First Neon Signs in the US

The first commercially-made neon signs by Claude Neon, Georges Claude’s company, were two pieces for a car dealership in Los Angeles, Packard. The pair went on sale in 1923, for an impressive sum of $24,000, purchased by Earle C. Anthony. In the years that followed, the popularity of outdoor neon signs significantly increased. Dubbed 'liquid fire,' the fixtures were a source of fascination for many people, who would stop and admire the new advertising tool. Since that first sale, the price of neon signs has significantly gone down, making it an affordable option for businesses worldwide.

Performance in Foggy Conditions

Weather phenomena, including rain and fog cause reduced visibility. In such conditions, conventional non-lit signs remain invisible, unless from close range or with the help of a separate electric lighting setup. Neon signs, on the other hand, cut through the fog with ease. It is this unique capability that sees them come into use in airports to ensure aircraft safety. This quality also means that neon signs or lights quickly light dark areas in poorly lit neighborhoods. The ability to shine through such weather brings out a different application for neon lights.

100% Handmade

We live in an increasingly mechanized world. The use of smart technology and automation has, over the years, seen the manufacturing industry significantly morph. However, the production of neon signs is one process that remains purely hands-on, regardless of the current technological advancements.

It takes a skilled pair of hands and a keen eye for detail to mold glass tubes into the colorful signs we see every day. There are many shapes and colors possible, but the production process remains the same for all. Glass is brittle by nature, and it takes an experienced hand to bend it and achieve the desired shape with minimal losses.

An Impressive Range of Colors

There are almost 200 different colors applicable to a neon light. Such an impressive variety makes it easy to bring to life all manner of designs and spectrums for your business advertising. Colorful templates often prove a design challenge with a limited spectrum, but with many colors to choose from, even the most diverse ranges can come to life. Further customization capabilities in the form of variable shapes and sizes, so color caps off an excellent recipe.


Neon signs have a fascinating history and have remained a mainstay in today's advertising scene. The malleability of hot glass makes it possible to create any desired shape, accompanied by suitable colors to complete an affordable, yet effective advertising and marketing tool.

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