Updated: Jan 16, 2020
The evolution of a candle is a remarkable representation of manʼs ingenuity. Isnʼt it interesting to consider what we use now to diffuse odors and create ambiance in a room was once intended solely to be a guiding light in darkness and to illuminate homes? Dating back to the Bible as it references candles several times, each time indicating the purpose of the candle as to provide light.
“For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.”
To think, candles made today from organic, all natural waxes were made from melted down animal fat by the Ancient Egyptians and Romans dating back to 3000 BC. We donʼt know exactly when the candle was invented. I reference 3000 BC because the first wicked candle was used during that time. Prior to wicked candles, the Egyptians used rushlights or torches, and they were made by soaking the core of reeds in fallow - thatʼs animal fat. Later candle wax was made from plants, insects, seeds, nuts and even cinnamon by some cultures. I suppose anything that could be melted down and eventually solidified to a hard enough substance was used for candle wax.
Moving forward, in 165 BC a major use for candles were religious ceremonies like Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the 4th century (301-400 AD), Emperor Constantine used candles during an Easter service. I gather at that time candles were becoming easier to make in mass quantity. Then in the Middle Ages (500 AD - 1500 AD), Beeswax candles were introduced to Europe and in the 18th century it was discovered that sperm whale oil was an even better substance to use in candles because it was harder than fallow. Much better for the hot summer days. The first standard candle was made during the 18th century.
In the 1850ʼs paraffin became the next best thing to use in candles. Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum and it has been claimed that paraffin wax releases toxic fumes when burnt, however paraffin wax is still used in some candles today.
All of a sudden, in 1879, the light bulb was invented and candle production and use declined significantly. Candles made a comeback in the 1980ʼs and 1990ʼs when their popularity skyrocketed. They started to be used as decorative items made with different fragrances, shapes, colors and sizes. New waxes were introduced such as soybean and palm wax.
Today, candles are no longer used for a major source of light but used for celebrations, romance, to relax, and a warm glow. Aromatherapy candles became known as a soothing way to create a tranquil atmosphere by refreshing the air using essential oils in candles. Nowadays, we use all kinds of waxes to make candles. Candles are made with paraffin wax, soy wax, palm wax, beeswax, coconut wax; all with different benefits. In 2019 the candle industry has become diverse and competitive. Candles are now produced with organic recyclable resources and used for fragrance and decor. A candle can accent any room decorum; minimalist to elegant and in between.
According to Businesswire, the global leader in press release distribution and regulatory disclosure, the global candle markets were valued at $7.5 billion in 2016 and are expected to reach $11.7 billion by 2025.
Photos from Wikipedia