From Sparklers to Skyrockets: The Different Types of Fireworks and How They Work

Fireworks have been around for centuries and are a staple of celebrations worldwide. From New Year’s Eve to the Fourth of July, we use fireworks to commemorate special events and holidays. But have you ever wondered how these colorful displays work? In this article, we’ll explore the different types of fireworks and how they create the mesmerizing displays we all love.

History of Fireworks

The origins of fireworks can be traced back to ancient China, where they were used for military purposes. The first recorded use of fireworks in China dates back to the 7th century during the Tang Dynasty. By the 13th century, fireworks had become a popular form of entertainment during celebrations and festivals.

Fireworks made their way to Europe in the 14th century and quickly became a hit. In the 18th century, Italian pyrotechnicians developed new techniques that allowed for the creation of more elaborate displays, and fireworks became even more popular.

Today, fireworks are a global phenomenon and are used to celebrate holidays, weddings, and other special events.

Types of Fireworks

There are many different types of fireworks, each with their own unique properties and effects. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular types.


Sparklers are one of the most common types of fireworks and are often used by children. They are handheld fireworks that produce bright sparks when lit. Sparklers are typically made of metal wire that is coated with a mixture of fuel and metal powder.


Fountains are fireworks that are placed on the ground and produce a shower of sparks when lit. They are usually designed to emit a colorful display that shoots several feet into the air.

Roman Candles

Roman candles are tube-shaped fireworks that are lit and then shoot colored stars into the sky. They can be used alone or as part of a larger display.


Firecrackers are small, explosive devices that make a loud popping noise when lit. They are often used to create a loud noise during celebrations.


Rockets are fireworks that are launched into the air and then explode, creating a spectacular display of light and color. They come in various sizes and shapes, from small bottle rockets to large aerial shells.


Mortars are large tubes that are used to launch aerial shells into the sky. They are typically used in professional displays and can produce some of the most spectacular fireworks shows.

How Fireworks Work

All fireworks work by combining fuel, oxidizer, and chemicals to create a controlled explosion. Let’s take a closer look at the process.

Black Powder

The key component of most fireworks is black powder, also known as gunpowder. It is made up of potassium nitrate (the oxidizer), charcoal (the fuel), and sulfur (to help the mixture burn more evenly). When black powder is ignited, it rapidly burns, creating a large amount of gas and heat.

Stars and Effect Charges

To create the colorful displays we see in fireworks, pyrotechnicians use “stars.” Stars are small pellets made of a combination of chemicals and color-producing agents. When ignited, they produce a bright burst of color.

Effect charges are similar to stars, but they produce a specific effect, such as a loud bang or a whistle.


To create a fireworks show, each firework must be timed precisely. The timing determines when the firework will ignite and how long it will burn. Pyrotechnicians use electronic firing systems to ensure that each firework is launched at the correct time.


Fireworks can be launched in several ways, depending on the type of firework. For example, rockets are launched using a tube, while mortars use a large launching tube. Once the firework is launched, it is propelled into the air by the force of the explosion.

Safety Precautions

While fireworks can be a lot of fun, they can also be dangerous if not handled properly. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Always follow the instructions on the firework package.
  • Never allow children to handle fireworks.
  • Never hold fireworks in your hand while lighting them.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies.
  • Never relight a firework that did not ignite the first time.

Fireworks are a time-honored tradition that bring people together to celebrate special events and holidays. From sparklers to skyrockets, there are a variety of different types of fireworks that produce awe-inspiring displays of light and color. By understanding the history and science behind fireworks, we can appreciate the skill and creativity that goes into creating a spectacular show.

If you’re looking to add fireworks to your next celebration, there are many options available. With fireworks for sale in stores and online, it’s easier than ever to put on a dazzling display that will leave your guests in awe. Remember to always follow safety precautions and use fireworks in a safe and open area.