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History of candles

February 20, 2018

History of candles

Who doesn’t love a sweetly scented candle burning in their home? They’re great as gifts, great at bathtime, to mask the smells of cooking from a kitchen, and of course for a romantic candlelit dinner.  But have you ever wondered where candles actually come from? Here at Hamper Lounge, we’re pretty obsessed with the gorgeous candles in our hampers. So we delved into the history of candle making and how they came to be. Here are some interesting facts we found:

Candles were used as a source of artificial light for thousands of years. In fact, they were the only source up until the early 1900s. These days they of course are used for many other purposes, with the light they invoke being a very small reason behind their frequent usage.

Traditionally, candles have played a big part in religious services. This is still the case today and you’re likely to find many places of religious worship bedecked in candles.

Candles were originally produced from a substance called tallow. In Egyptian and Roman times, tallow was extracted from sheep and cows. At this time, candles didn’t exactly smell as great as we expect them to do now. In fact, they smelled quite bad and burned poorly.

The first sign of the type of candle that we recognise today was created by the Roman Empire. They developed this by pouring melted tallow over a wick made of hemp or cotton.

By the time we reached the Middle Ages, candles had firmly cemented their place in religious places of worship. They also evolved and were now produced with beeswax which was a drastic improvement over the tallow candles. The expense of these beeswax candles however made it difficult for the masses to afford them. They were primarily being used by clergymen and upper classes.

Some of the early settlers in America were the creators of the first ‘scented’ candles. They found that boiling berries and mixing these into the wax created a candle that burnt well and smelled sweet. However, making these berry wax candles wasn’t a quick and easy process.

In the 19th century, candle making machines were a major breakthrough in the history of candles. They lowered production costs, making it possible for candles to be affordable for the masses. The quality of candles was further improved when they started to be produced using stearic acid rather than tallow.

Another development in the world of candles was the invention of the braided wick. Before this, wicks had primarily been made of twisted cotton strands which burned poorly. With a tightly plaited braided wick, they burned much more effectively and didn’t require constant maintenance.

Paraffin wax was used in candles from the mid-19th century. This was an ideal substance and the paraffin wax candles burned brightly and easily without any bad smells.

In the present day, candle lovers can choose from a huge variety of candles made from different types of waxes. They also have an assortment of fragrances to choose from. Candles are used primarily for home decoration now, and they also make great gifts for pretty much anyone!