All About Candles – What Are Candles Made Of?

about candles
Image Credit : | The earliest candles were made of beeswax, but a lot has changed since then. Read on to discover what are candles made of here.

You likely have them in your storage room. You light them up when the power grid goes down. You burn their wicks every time you celebrate birthdays and other milestones.

These are the candles that illuminate spaces and turn special occasions into more memorable ones. 

Despite the advent of modern lighting options, candles continue to stand the test of time. Analysts predict that the global candle market will breach the $13 billion-dollar mark by 2026. 

For someone who uses candles, did you ever wonder when people lit the first candle? What are candles made of?

Continue reading below as we find the answers to these interesting questions.

Let There Be Light

It is hard to determine the exact date when the first-ever candle lit up. However, history tells us that candles originated from ancient Egypt. They dipped the core of reeds in melted animal fat.

Thereafter, they lit up the reeds with fire. This created torches or rushlights, though they did not come with any wicks.

Because the Egyptians’ rushlights featured animal fat, they carried a distinct smell. These ancient candles smelled like greasy food.

Meanwhile, the Romans also made their version of the candle. But instead of using reeds, they opted for papyrus. What Romans first rolled the papyrus before dipping them in beeswax. 

They dipped the papyrus several times. This process ensured that beeswax stuck nicely and covered the papyrus evenly. Thus, the wicked candle was born.

Moreover, the Romans took candle-use to a different level. Aside from illuminating the Romans’ homes and paths at night, the candles also illuminated religious ceremonies. 

More Wicked Ones

Though most historians credit the Romans to be the first to create wicked candles, some say that other ancient civilizations also came up with theirs. Historians discovered evidence that the ancient Chinese used plants and insects as wax to create wicked candles. 

They extracted the wax from the Coccos Pella insect. This process dated back to the time of the Tang Dynasty around 618-907 A.D. They also used paper tubes made of rice paper, which served as the wick of the candles. 

Meanwhile, the ancient Japanese also started to make their version of wicked candles. Instead of insects, they extracted wax from tree nuts. Moving down south, the Indians boiled cinnamon tree fruits to create candle wax. 

In the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions, the Jews started to use candles as early as 165 B.C. Candles became a fixture during the Hanukkah. This is the Jewish Festival of Lights. Additionally, the Bible also mentions the use of candles during the early days of Israel.

Generally, these ancient candles were smelly. And when they burned, they created a smoky flame.

Middle and Colonial Ages

During the Middle Ages, the West started to change and innovate candles. Instead of using animal fat, specifically tallow, the Europeans introduced beeswax. The great thing about beeswax is that it burned cleanly.

This means people didn’t have to put up with the smoky flame. This also signaled the end of the foul odor that came with animal or insect wax. Instead, beeswax emitted a sweet and pleasant smell.

However, candles that featured beeswax did not spread at a rapid pace. This is because the beeswax was very expensive. Hence, it was only the churches and a handful of affluent families who were able to afford candles made of beeswax.

Once the Colonial Times set forth, the Americans started to share their contributions to candle-making. The women introduced the process of boiling bayberry bush berries. The boiling resulted in a sweet-smelling wax that was similar to the beeswax that also burned cleanly. 

This, however, did not last very long. The process of boiling and extracting the wax took a lot of time and effort. This led to the decline of the bayberry candles.

Nevertheless, Americans will introduce a new process. During the late eighteenth century, the whaling industry was growing at a fast pace. With this growth came the process of crystallizing sperm whale oil. This process created spermaceti wax.

Moreover, this type of wax produced a brighter light without emitting any foul odor.

The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The nineteenth century is perhaps the most dynamic era in the world of candle-making. This was the time when French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul stearic acid extraction. This eventually brought forth the stearin wax.

This was also the time when Joseph Morgan developed a candle-making machine. The machine featured a cylinder with a moving piston. The piston ejected the candles, leading to the continuous production of molded candles.

The 1850s also brought forth the introduction of the paraffin wax. Paraffin burned cleanly and consistently. But best of all, it was cheaper to produce.

What are Candles Made Of?

But what are candles made of? Most modern candles feature paraffin wax. Paraffin comes from petroleum and is easily mass-produced. 

Also, it allows manufacturers to add different colors and scents before the mold dries up.

Some manufacturers also combine paraffin with vegetable wax. This is common among high-quality luxury candles.

You will still find some candle makers using beeswax. However, it will be tough to find a candle made of animal fat. Additionally, the beeswax is very expensive nowadays.

Furthermore, some companies use natural wax. Some of the more popular types of natural waxes include palm oil wax and soy wax. Generally, manufacturers blend these two.

The good thing about natural wax is that it offers a longer burning time with little to no odor. The downside is that candles using natural wax are more expensive than their paraffin-based counterparts.

Candles and Beyond

What are candles made of? Hopefully, this guide provides all the answers you seek and a better appreciation of something you tend to overlook.

But what about the other items at home that you rarely even touch? They also have their own stories to tell.

We invite to check our other articles. We feature interesting items and topics that will increase your knowledge and appreciation for big and small things alike.