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Article: The History of Candle Making: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

The History of Candle Making: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

The History of Candle Making: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

Candles have been a source of light and a symbol of warmth and comfort for thousands of years. Their history is a fascinating journey through time, reflecting advancements in technology, culture, and human ingenuity. Let's take a historical journey through the evolution of candle making, from its origins in ancient civilizations to the innovations of today.

Ancient Beginnings

Early Civilizations The earliest known candles were made by the ancient Egyptians as early as 3000 BC. These early candles were created by soaking the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat. Unlike modern candles, they didn't have a wick, but they provided a source of light.

In ancient Rome, around 500 BC, true dipped candles made from tallow (animal fat) were used. Romans dipped rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax to create candles.

China and Japan In China, around 200 BC, candles were made from whale fat. Meanwhile, in Japan, candles were created from wax extracted from tree nuts, and in India, from boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.

Middle Ages

Europe During the Middle Ages, beeswax candles were introduced in Europe. Unlike tallow, beeswax burned cleanly without producing a smoky flame. These candles were expensive and mainly used in churches and the homes of the wealthy.

Candlemaking as a Craft By the 13th century, candlemaking had become a guild craft in England and France. Chandlers (candlemakers) went from house to house making candles from the kitchen fats saved for that purpose, or they made and sold their own candles from small candle shops.

Colonial Times in America

Tallow and Bayberry In colonial America, women made candles from rendered fat (tallow) from cows and sheep. They also discovered that bayberry bushes produced a sweet-smelling wax that burned cleanly. However, extracting this wax was labor-intensive, making bayberry candles a luxury.

Spermaceti Candles In the 18th century, the whaling industry led to the development of spermaceti candles. Spermaceti, a wax obtained by crystallizing sperm whale oil, was used to produce high-quality candles that burned brightly and cleanly.

19th Century Advancements

Stearin and Paraffin Wax In the 19th century, the discovery of stearin, derived from animal fats, marked a significant advancement in candle making. Stearin was harder and burned longer than tallow. In the 1850s, chemists also developed paraffin wax from petroleum and coal shales. Paraffin wax, with its ability to be processed into high-quality candles, revolutionized the industry.

Industrialization The industrial revolution brought about mechanization in candle production. Joseph Morgan invented a machine in 1834 that allowed for the continuous production of molded candles, drastically increasing production speed and reducing costs.

20th Century to Today

Electricity and the Decline of Candles With the advent of electricity, the demand for candles as a primary light source diminished. However, candles remained popular for their aesthetic and aromatic qualities.

Modern Innovations Today, candles are primarily made from paraffin, soy, and beeswax. The focus has shifted towards artisanal and eco-friendly candles. Innovations like scented candles, decorative candles, and candles with embedded technology, such as Kaind's NFC-enabled candles, have redefined their use in modern homes.

Sustainability Modern consumers are increasingly aware of environmental impacts, leading to a rise in the popularity of sustainable materials like soy wax, coconut wax, and other plant-based waxes. These materials burn cleaner and are often sourced responsibly, aligning with the growing demand for eco-friendly products.


From ancient reeds soaked in animal fat to today's eco-friendly and technologically advanced candles, the history of candle making is a testament to human creativity and adaptability. Each era has contributed to refining and enhancing the humble candle, transforming it from a mere light source to a cherished item that brings warmth, fragrance, and ambiance to our lives.

By understanding the rich history of candle making, we can appreciate the craftsmanship and innovation that continue to shape this timeless tradition. Whether used for lighting, decoration, or relaxation, candles remain an enduring symbol of comfort and creativity.

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