The Evolution of Balloon Centerpieces

woman holding balloons

Common with young children, a balloon is a large air tight bag made from materials such as rubber, or latex. When we hear the word, we usually reflect upon its many decorative properties. Being cheap and very cost effective, balloon centerpieces are the easiest party tool at social events.

Even though rubber can be synthetically created in production, natural latex is preferred. Natural latex is significantly more durable than synthetic rubber. It is able to stretch up to seven or eight times larger than its original size and then return to its former shape.

Natural latex is harvested from the sap of rubber trees. Shallow cuts in the tree are made and the sap is then collected in large containers. Impurities are then filtered and removed. Dyes can be added at this stage along with other additives and chemicals. To manufacture balloon centerpieces, moulds are used to shape the liquid latex to size.


Balloon centerpieces actually have an interesting history dating back a few hundred years to the early 1700s. Initially used to develop successful human flying attempts, experiments with these devices have evolved over time, creating the modern-day blimps or zeppelins we commonly know about.

It is important to note that the use of the term balloon centerpieces is used here in this discussion to donate any primary use of inflatables in devices, including the use of its ornamental purposes.

Balloon centerpieces have also been used in warfare. Excellent for reconnaissance and making battlefield maps, these tools were used in military campaigns to created anchored observatories elevated above the battlefield. Remarkably, Napoleon was known to have used these devices, which were also used during the American Civil War and in World War I.


Incendiary centerpiece balloons have also historically been used. Filled with hydrogen or helium gas and a bomb, these spheres would float into the air where it would release an explosion above hostile territory. The original prototypes were designed to bomb enemy ships.

As technological development improved, variants of this technology were used later during the Second World War to counter low altitude flying attacks. Designed to be placed at higher altitudes, the updated oval shape of balloon centerpieces increased stability compared to the traditional spherical shape. It was then held in place with cables. Bomber planes were forced to fly above them reducing the accuracy of their bombing raids.

Balloon centerpieces have also proved to be extremely useful in the scientific world. Frequently used in weather forecasting, these tools are launched high into the stratosphere past the ozone layer, collecting information such as atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed. Today weather prediction is impossible without knowing conditions of the upper atmosphere. This vital predictive weather information has the impact and ability to save lives.


Additionally, cosmic rays were discovered in 1912 because of these high-altitude centerpiece balloons and the dedicated work of Victor Hess. Strong levels of ionizing radiation were detected at higher altitudes. The flow on effects from this detection led to new discoveries in particle and nuclear physics. Victor Hess was later awarded the Nobel prize for his contribution in 1936.

As technological advances increased, high-altitude centerpiece balloons were used to by skydivers and BASE jumpers to travel to extreme heights. Beginning in 1960, Joseph Kittinger skydived 31,300 meters. Many years later in 2012, daredevil Felix Baumgartner travelled to 38,969 meters with Alan Eustace surpassing that record later in 2014 at 41,419 meters.

Inflatables float because of basic air pressure. Once blown up, the air inside will have larger air pressure than normal atmospheric air pressure. Air pressure relates to the density of an object.