Decorative and functional
Fireplace screens can serve more than one purpose. In times past, their main purpose was to keep sparks, embers and ashes from escaping the fireplace and ending up in the room which it was supposed to be heating. Today, in addition to that practical purpose, fireplace screens serve to further enhance the aesthetic appeal of the fireplace, providing a focal point for the room that it is located in and also serving to deflect stray sparks or embers back into the fireplace.
Most fireplace screens are made of a thin frame of brass, wrought or cast-iron, or some other metal, with either a fine metal mesh or glass filling the space between to catch the sparks and keep them from finding their way into your home. The use of a fireplace screen is therefore a safety precaution. However, since the most efficient examples that use high efficiency inserts are completely enclosed and cannot release stray sparks or embers, fireplace screens tend to serve a more aesthetic purpose today than they have in the past.
Because of the reduced practical requirement for fireplace screens combined with the increased aesthetic role which they play, these accessories are being made of more exotic materials than they would have in the past. In fact, there are even companies who will make custom fireplace screens of any materials you choose, to any design specifications that you want. Like most other fireplace accessories, the only limitation on your selection of fireplace screen is your imagination and your budget.
When choosing a fireplace screen, make sure that you know what your real requirements are. If you have a traditional fireplace in the open style, you may need a fireplace screen that is practical and functional. If you have a natural gas fireplace, you have no functional need for a fireplace screen, so the only requirement is that the screen add to the room's décor. Once you know how you will use it, you know how to look at the screen to decide on its usability for your application, and you will be able to ask the salesperson the right questions as to whether this screen is simply a work of art or a practical spark stopper.
The perfect fireplace screen can greatly add to your fireplace, much like having the right mantel. As with other add-ons, be sure to check out a variety of options in showrooms before committing to a particular choice, even if you are buying online. It is very important to know exactly what you are getting and to be completely certain that it will look the way that you want in the room where your fireplace is located.