The history of candles goes back more than 5000 years and are believed to have first been developed by the Ancient Egyptians. They soaked the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat for candle waxes and made torches and rushlights, although this form of a candle did use have a wick.
In 3000 B.C the Egyptians were using wicked candles but it was the Ancient Romans who were the creators of developing the wicked candle. It is said that rolled papyrus in melted tallow or beeswax repeatedly resulting in a candle form which was used to light the home. Their candles were used for religious ceremonies and a light to accompany travelling at night.
- EARLY CIVILIZATION – Historians have found that candles were developed using waxes made from plants and insects.
- CHINESE – The original candles made in by the Chinese were molded using paper tubes and finely rolled rice paper for the wick. The wax was made from a native insect combine with seeds.
- INDIA – Early candle wax was made by boiling the fruit from the cinnamon tree.
- JAPAN – Candles were made from wax that was extracted from tree nuts and fruits.
- HANNUKAH – The Jewish Festival of Lights dates back to 165 B.C, where candles have always played an important part of the ceremonies.
- WESTERN CULTURES – early Western cultures relied on candles made from animal fat (tallow).
A major development came in the Middle Ages where beeswax candles were introduced in Europe. Unlike animal-based tallow, beeswax gave a clean and pure burn without the previously experienced smoking flame of tallow. It also gave off a pleasant sweet smell, rather than the foul fat-burning smell of tallow. Beeswax were popular and often used in church ceremonies, but they were expensive so only the wealthy could afford to burn them at home. Candlemaking had become a craft in England and France, as candlemakers visited homes, making candles from the kitchen fats.
American Colonial women partook in candlemaking when they discovered that boiling the berries of bayberry bushes produced a sweet-smelling wax that had a clean burn. However, removing the wax from the bayberries was a difficult and long process and therefore it was a short-lived method.
In the late 18th century the growing whaling industry discovered that spermaceti, a wax obtained by crystallising sperm whale oil because hugely available. The spermaceti wax gave a brighter light when burned and did not produce an unpleasant smell. The wax was harder so it would last longer and would not soften easily. Historians claim that the first ‘standard candles’ were made from spermaceti wax.
In the 1820’s French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul discovered that he could extract stearic acid from animal fat acids. This resulted in a new wax called Stearin wax, which was hard and durable, with a clean burn. Stearin wax candles are still made in parts of Europe today.
Paraffin wax was introduced in the 1850’s when chemists discovered how to separate and refine the waxy substance from petroleum. They discovered the wax was odourless with a clean burn, and was far more easy to produce economically. The only drawback was that it had a low melting point, but this issue was soon overcome when the harder stearic acid was added.
With the growth of U.S oil in the 20th century, candlemaking became more popular as there was an increase in by-products which were the basic wax ingredients. In the mid 1980’s, candles became far more fashionable as a home decorative item and as a gift concept. The industry boomed as candles became available in different colours, shapes and sizes and the interest in scented candles began to surge.
In the 1990’s, new types of candle waxes were developed and the U.S agricultural chemists began to develop the soybean wax. This resulted in a softer, slow burning wax made from a hydrogenated form of natural soybean oil, which was eco-friendly, clean burning and odour free.
Candles have become a popular major household item in home fragrance. They are given as gifts, or romantic gestures and are regularly used by most people. They symbolise celebration, ceremonies, romance, relaxation, and scented candles in particular have become very popular.