Candles - Then & Now

03/30/2011 03:00

Candles have been used for centuries for light and to illuminate man's celebrations with very little known about their origin. It has been written that the first candles were developed by the Egyptians. We know that they used torches made by soaking the core of reeds in melted animal fat. However, the torches had no wick like the candles we use today.

Early Wicked Candles

The ancient Romans are credited with developing the wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. The candles were used to light their homes, to aid travelers at night, and in religious ceremonies.

It is a well known fact that candles play an important role in some religious ceremonies. There are several Biblical references to the use of candles as well.

Middle Ages

Early Western cultures relied primarily on candles made from animal fat (tallow). A big improvement came in the Middle Ages, when beeswax candles were introduced. Unlike animal-based tallow, beeswax burned pure and clean. It also gave off a pleasant sweet smell rather than the foul, smell of tallow.

Beeswax candles were mostly used for church ceremonies, but because they were expensive, few people other than the wealthy could afford them.

The 20th Century

Candles enjoyed renewed popularity during the first half of the 20th century. The growth of U.S. oil and meatpacking industries has resulted in an increase in the byproducts that have become the main ingredients of candles – paraffin and stearic acid.

In the mid-1980s, interest in candles as decorative items, mood-setters and gifts began to increase dramatically. Candles were suddenly available in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. With the technology to infuse scents into candles the market began to explode.

The increase in popularity led to new types of candle waxes being introduced. Something that had not been done for over a century. In the U.S., chemists began to develop soybean wax, a softer, slower burning wax with considerably less soot.

Today's Candles

Candles have come a long way since their first uses. They no longer serve as our major source of light. Today, candles are a symbol of inspiration and celebration. They set romantic moods, soothe the senses, and accent home decors. Their warm glow enhances the environment.