You would be surprised the roller coaster of a life candles really hold. From animal fat, to tree nuts, and crystallized sperm whale oil, all the way to modern day 100% Natural Soy Wax and 100% Synthetic Paraffin Wax, this is how our candles have come to exist.
Candles were first made by the Egyptians 5,000 years ago
Torches and rush lights were made by soaking reeds in melted animal fat (tallow), but no wick, so they were technically not candles.
EARLY WICK CANDLES
Romans are credited with the development of wick candles. They dipped rolled papyrus in melted tallow or beeswax.
Early Chinese also used the wick- rolled rice paper as wick, molded shape in paper tubes, and used wax made from an indigenous insect combined with seeds.
Japan used wax extracted from Tree Nuts.
India used wax made by boiling fruits of the cinnamon tree.
Dating back to 165 B.C. candles were used during Hanukkah- The Festival of Lights
Introduction of beeswax to Europe- it burned pure, clean, and had a pleasant scent-unlike tallow.
Beeswax was very expensive, only afforded by the wealthy.
13th century candle making became guild craft in England and France, Chandlers (candle makers) went from home to home and made candles from saved kitchen fat.
American women entered the US into the candle market by creating bayberry bush wax candles, however the process was so tedious their use quickly diminished. As you can see below the berries were too tiny to work with.
Growth in the whaling industry brought spermaceti wax into the market- made from crystallizing sperm whale oil- smelled better than tallow, burned brighter- first “standard candles” were made from spermaceti wax.
1820 Michel Eugene discovered how to extract Stearic Acid which developed stearic wax- hard, durable, burned clean- stearic wax is still popular in Europe today. Below is Stearic Acid, it is a fine white powder like substance.
1834 Joseph Morgan introduced mechanized candle production which made it affordable to the masses.
1850’s paraffin wax is developed- scientists learn how to separate the waxy substance found in petroleum, they refine it.
Paraffin is odorless, economical, burned cleanly, consistently- however it was not hard enough alone. By adding Eugenes’ Stearic Acid it became the ideal wax.
1879 invention of the light bulb began the decline of the candle
The US Oil and Meatpacking industries start booming and so do their byproducts- paraffin and stearic acid.
Candles maintain steady popularity until the 1980’s, introduced as decorative items, mood-setters, and gifts- available is an array of sizes, shapes, and colors.
Because of their popularity, in the 1990’s new types of waxes were developed like soybean wax and palm wax.
You can pretty much create whatever your imagination can come up with.