The History Of Candles

The history of candles is truly fascinating!

What was once an ancient day necessity has now evolved to become a modern day luxury. Now, the variety of options to choose from is nearly unlimited.

Early History of Candles

Ancient Egyptians are often credited as the first to harness a light source by creating rushlights, made of reeds soaked in animal fat. Rushlights, similar to a torch, have no wick unlike today’s candles.

Candles (those characterized by having a wick) have been around since approximately 3,000 B.C. when the early Romans developed a wick made of rolled papyrus. The papyrus was repeatedly dipped into tallow or beeswax and ta-da, the first candle was born.

Other evidence of early candles has been discovered by historians, particularly originating from Asian countries. These candles were made from waxes derived from plants and insects. They were then molded in paper tubes utilizing a piece of rolled rice paper as the wick. Alternatives included waxes made from tree nuts and fruits.

Candles for Religious Purposes

While candles were primarily used as a light source in ancient times, they also served an important role in religious ceremonies and celebrations.

During the middle ages and colonial times, new waxes were introduced into candle making such as tallow (animal fat), beeswax, and bayberry waxes.

Beeswax and bayberry waxes were primarily employed for candles in churches, as they were too expensive for most families to afford in their homes. Tallow candles, which were cheap and readily available, were more common for in home use.

Early Candle Manufacturing

In 1834 with the invention of mechanized candle production, candles became an easily affordable commodity for the masses.

Braided wicks made of cotton were also introduced in the early nineteenth century. Prior to this the wicks had been made of twisted strands of cotton which, as you can imagine, were not very consistent or easy to maintain.

Around the late 1800s candles began to decline in popularity for their use as a light source due to the invention of light bulbs.

The Candle Revival

Fast forward to the 1980s. Candles began to climb in popularity for their use as home decor, mood enhancement, and general enjoyment.

By the 1990s candle sales had begun to skyrocket. Agricultural chemists developed soybean wax, which is softer and slower burning than paraffin. Soy wax remains one of the most popular wax types today.

It wasn’t until 2001 that wood wicks were invented and introduced into the marketplace. Inspired by the familiar warmth of a wood burning fireplace, wood wicks were developed to create a multi-sensory burning experience.

Candle Innovation

In 2015, The Wooden Wick Co. formed an exclusive license with Lumetique, Inc., the original creator of wooden wicks and a company that has over 40 utility and design patents worldwide. The patents cover single-ply, multi-layered, curved and decorative shaped wicks made from 100% wood, semi-wood, fibrous material or cotton and wood combinations.

Since the initial release of wooden wicks, many additional advancements have been made to create new opportunities in functionality, design, consistency, and customization.

The desire for candles and their use for ceremonies, relaxation, home decor, and personal enjoyment continues to grow as well. The global candle industry is expected to reach 11.7 billion dollars by 2025.

The main varieties of today’s candles include pillar, container, votive, taper, and tea light. With an estimated 10,000+ scents available to choose from, the variety of available options is ever increasing.

For the full history of candles, check out this incredible article posted by the National Candle Association: The History of Candles.

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