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The History of Candle Making | Mountain City Candle Co.
The History of Candle Making

The art of making candles has been around since primitive times. Of course, as time went by they become much different in design than what they were back then. In the early days, candles were a necessity for heat and light. Today they serve as decorations, wonderfully smelling mechanisms in our homes, and offer light for romantic dinners and baths.

The first known use of candles is not completely known. The remains of clay candle holders that date back to 4 BC have given us the knowledge that they have been in use for a very long time. Those clay candle holders were found in Egypt. Candles were also used in ancient times in both China and Japan. These candles were made of wax extracted from insects and seeds. The taper candles of India were made from wax extracted from boiled cinnamon. 

Candles are not known to exist in America until 1 AD. It is believed Native Americans burned oily fish and the back of the Cerio tree. When settlers came to New England, they used similar techniques to extract wax from bayberries. Many modern candle makers still use that process to make bayberry candles. However, it is quite expensive to do so.

Soy wax candles have been around since ancient times. In fact, they were first created in China over 2,000 years ago. These candles are made out of natural materials like beeswax, palm oil, coconut oil, and soybean oil. They are non-toxic, biodegradable, and renewable. They burn cleanly without any smoke or odor. The long-lasting quality of these candles comes from their high percentage of soy wax. Most soy wax candles last between 6 months and 1 year. However, some soy wax candles can last longer than that if they are stored properly.  Soy wax candles are eco-friendly because they use natural ingredients. They do not produce harmful chemicals while burning. They are also recyclable and compostable. Soy wax candles are typically affordable because they are made out of inexpensive ingredients. All you need to make a soy wax candle is a wick and a container. You simply pour the melted wax into the container and place the wick inside. Then, just let the candle sit until it hardens.

Tallow was the product used to make candles in the 1600s and 1700s. This is a byproduct of animal fat. The product worked well but had a foul odor, especially when it was burning. Beeswax and paraffin wax both were introduced in the early 1800s, and tallow stopped being used. The dipping process for taper candles as we know it today began in 13 AD. Traveler merchants went door to door from town to town. While there, they made taper candles for individuals in their homes. 

Around 15 AD the idea to use molds for various types of candles was introduced in Paris. While this greatly improved the candle-making process, there were still issues with getting the candles to burn properly.  In the 1800s, candle makers felt the wick was the weakest area of the candle as well as the cause of defective burning patterns. A braided wick was developed in 1825 that seemed to greatly improve the burning of several types of candles. By 1830, a process was in place to make candles using paraffin wax and molds. These candles were of good quality and burned well. 

As gas and electricity were introduced, the candle-making process continued to evolve. It became much easier and faster to melt the paraffin wax. It is believed that the reason so many of the elements of candle-making stayed the same, including the hand-dipping process is that the popularity of candles diminished with the introduction of electricity. 

Today, candle-making is a well-known art form. There are many companies that manufacture candles in production settings, and there are also small businesses, like ours, that still make their candles at home in their kitchen. Candle-making is a great hobby and fun activity for the whole family. 

Candles are now used more for luxury and pleasure than for light or heat. The candle industry continues to grow with new types of candles being introduced all the time. The amount of colors, fragrances, and types of candles to choose from in the marketplace is absolutely amazing. Candles are a very common home decorating item, used to accent any room in your house. They are a common centerpiece for dinner parties and formal occasions. The unity candles that are presided over at many weddings hold a deep sense of tradition in American culture. 

The art of making candles has definitely changed over time. If you are interested in trying your hand at it, choose a candle that is fairly easy to make such as the container candle or the votive.  Wax melts for an electric melter are an easy starting point as well.  There is a lot of science and math involved, but this will allow you the chance to get used to the process. There are several good candle-making kits available for a low price as well as books to give you tips and assistance along the way.

Have you tried candle making?  Comment your experiences below!


Lisa Beeman

Date 9/19/2020


Date 2/22/2021 11:15:47 AM

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