Pre-electricity theatre spotlights produced light by directing a flame at calcium oxide (quicklime). These kinds of lights were called limelights and this is the origin of the phrase “in the limelight” to mean “at the centre of attention”.


For other uses, see Limelight (disambiguation).

Diagram of a limelight burner

Limelight (also known as Drummond light or calcium light) is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide), which can be heated to 4,662 °F (2,572 °C) before melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be “in the limelight”. The actual lights are called “limes”, a term which has been transferred to electrical equivalents.


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