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The History of Candles | Custom Made Candles

Custom made candles are our business. We know pretty much everything about making a really good candle. However, for this post we thought we would do a bit of reading up on the history of candle making.

Early Candles

Candles have been used for as source of light for over 5000 years. The Ancient Egyptians are often credited as the inventors of candles. They made rush lights or torches by soaking the pithy core of reeds in tallow (animal fat). However, because these rush lights had no wick they weren’t what we would call a true candle.

It was the ancient Roman that developed the wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. Their candles were used for light and in religious ceremonies.

However, Historians have also found evidence that other early civilizations developed wicked candles including the Chinese. Their candles were moulded in paper tubes with rolled rice paper for the wick, the wax was made from crushing insects with seeds. In Japan, candles were made of wax extracted from tree nuts, while in India, candle wax was made by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.

Early candles played an important role in religious ceremonies. For instance, Hanukkah, dating back to 165 B.C. centres on lighting of candles for the Jewish festival of light.

Candles in Development

In the Middle Ages Western cultures relied on candles made from animal fat (tallow). Later beeswax candles were introduced in Europe. They were seen as a major improvement.  Unlike tallow, beeswax burned cleanly (without smoke) and smelt much more pleasant. Beeswax candles were used for church ceremonies, due to their expense, only the wealthy could afford them in their home.

Alternatives to waxes were developed throughout history, from bay berry wax in colonial America to wax made from whale blubber in the 18th century. In the 19th century stearin wax was developed by a French chemist. However, these waxes had their disadvantages and were a far cry from the waxes we use in our custom made candles today.

Modern Candle Manufacturing

In 1834, Joseph Morgan invented a machine that allowed for continuous production of moulded candles meaning that candles could became an easily affordable commodity for the masses.

It wasn’t until 1850 that today’s paraffin wax was introduced when chemists learned how to separate the waxy substance in petroleum and refine it

The popularity of candles was steady until the mid-1980s. However, interest in candles as decorative items began to increase notably with candles becoming available in many sizes, shapes and colours. By that point scented candles were beginning to take grip of the market.

In the 90s witnessed new types of candle waxes were developed for the first time in over a century. Soy wax was introduced as a slower burning wax than paraffin. And palm wax developed for use in candles.

Candles have come a long way since their initial use. While they are no longer used as a major source of light, they continue to grow in popularity and use. Companies like ours provide custom made candles so you can set up your own candle company at a fraction of the cost, time and hassle. Thankfully tallow is long since gone from the candle making process!

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