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History of Candle Use

October 23, 2018

Candle use and creation has evolved over the years, taking many different forms across different countries and cultures. We want to explore the history of candles and the journey it took to create the beautiful candles we use today.

Tallow wax was the original ingredient for candles, founded by the Roman empire; this wax was derived from the meat of cows and sheep. The Romans melted the wax over hemp, flax or cotton, which were used as the wicks, creating something that closely resembles the candles we have nowadays. The main candle use was lighting for travel and homes, as well as religious ceremonies.

Other early examples include the Qin Dynasty of ancient China where they used whale fat as candle wax and ancient India was the first to introduce scent into candles. They used a combination of boiled cinnamon and yak butter which gave a fragrance to the candle; these were predominantly used in spiritual worship.

The candle making industry spiked after the fall of the Roman Empire and tallow wax was the first choice ingredient, however, alternatives were explored due to its unpleasant odour and dim lighting. Beeswax was more reliable but, with limited quantities available, it was expensive so only accessible for the upper classes. Fortunately, an oil was discovered in the head of a sperm whale known as spermaceti which could keep its shape well and didn’t produce a horrible smell.

The majority of candle use was for worship throughout the world in the 18th Century, as well as being able to tell the time. This was possible with time measurements, usually in hours, marked along the wax or with the candles being made with weights set into the sides. As the candle melted, the weights would fall off, signifying every hour.

By the 19th Century, the population dramatically increased so Joseph Morgan introduced the industrial-scale manufacture of candles in order to keep up with the high demand. Paraffin wax was discovered by a chemist names James Young, by distilling paraffin from oil shales, which was an inexpensive alternative with a high-performing burn

However, once the light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison, the need for candles changed, so they were no longer required as a source of light but seen as a luxury instead. The development of scented candles and the creative forms they come in now means that they are mainly used as decoration and a source of fragrance.

Take a look at our huge range of scented candles and treat yourself or a loved one today!