Living in a modern world surrounded by electricity and having the capacity to change things with one touch; we often forget or maybe weren’t exposed to life before light. For years candles were the staple of people’s homes when the sunset. Today, candles are viewed as an aesthetic tool in one’s home to enhance the look and smell. So what has been the evolution of candles?
Ancient Traces of Candles
Since candles have been around for centuries, it’s difficult to trace an exact origin. For this reason, we will reference candles to specific instances in which they were mentioned. The first documentation of candles is linked to Ancient Egyptians. They made torches by soaking the pithy core of reeds melted in animal fat.
Furthermore, in Ancient Rome they are known for developing the wicked candle. This style of candle was achieved by dipping rolled papyrus in melted tallow or beeswax. This method of creating candles allowed people to travel, aid help, and compliment religious ceremonies with light. In China and Japan traces of candle making can also be found. In this specific culture, candles were designed from materials that were commonly found such as tree nuts and rice paper.
Middle Ages & Colonial Times
In the Middle Anges candles primarily were constituted as tallow (reduced fat) and therefore gave an unpleasant smell and smoke. Soon beeswax candles were introduced and that itself changed the game for the Middle Ages. It would become years until people could have access to beeswax candles due to their expensive price. For this reason, the churches and wealthy were the only ones with access to the sweet-smelling candles.
In the Colonial era, women attempted to create their own candle concoction. They boiled berries, it created a sweet beeswax candle. However, extracting the beeswax was extremely complex and tedious; this project quickly failed to gain popularity. Other methods were attempted as well such as sperm whale oil that gained recognition for their bright light and pleasant smell. It is documented that the first standard candle derives from sperm whale oil.
19th & 20th Century
During the 19th Century, a French chemist developed strain wax which is hard, durable, and burned cleanly. To this day in Europe, strain wax candles are very popular. In 1834 candle machines were invented speeding up the process. This innovation led candles to become more accessible to the community due to their affordable price.
In the 20th Century, the candle industry began to rise exponentially. In the 1980s there was a culture shift that led candles to become a decorative tool within one’s home. Scents were associated with moods, the candle shapes were changed, and the purpose of a candle changed to compliment one’s home.
To this day, candles have become a symbolic tool in and out of our home. While we may not use them as a source of primary light, we use candles to celebrate romance, special events, or have a comforting smell.