A brief history and evolution of candles

December 12, 2011 | Author: | Posted in Family Issues

The word candle comes from the Latin Candere, meaning luminous and to shine.

The earliest noted candles were made of whale fat by the Chinese, in the Qin Dynasty (221″206 BC). In early China and Japan , tapers were made with wax from insects and seeds which were wrapped in paper. In India wax from boiling cinnamon was employed to make candles. Proof of early candles has also been found in Egypt and Greece that go back to about 3000BC.

In the middle ages candles were made of blubber, a byproduct of animal fat. However Fat had a foul smell when it was burning. Beeswax and Paraffin wax were introduced in the 1800’s and Tallow stopped being used. In 18th century England, candles were taxed and the public were prohibited from make their own. There were two guilds of chandlers and they were the sole ones licensed to produce candles until 1831.

Early candles were formed by hanging one or two wicks from a long rod called a Broach. Liquefied tallow was then poured into a container and the wicks were dipped 3 times and then hung on a rack to dry. The candles where then continually dipped until the specified thickness was achieved. France were first to introduced moulds in the 15th century. Wax was poured into hollow open-ended cylinders. These cylinders had a cap with a tiny hole in the centre for the wick. The wick was then placed in the mold and held in position by small wires. Once the mold had been filled, the wicks were pulled tight and the wax was left to solidify then the wires were removed.

In the 1820’s braided wicks were used along with stearic acid. This chemical is a derivative of fat and was mixed into the wax to harden it. This made candles that burned longer. Before this, wicks where made of twisted pieces of cotton, hemp or flax. In 1834, inventor Joseph Morgan introduced a machine which facilitated constant production of moulded candles. The machine could produce around 1,500 candles an hour which allowed candles to become easily affordable and available to the public, revolutionising the candle making industry.

After the invention of the Kerosene fuelled lamp and the bulb in 1879 the utilising of candles started to decline. They are now used mostly as decorative items and to be used in non secular rites. Today, scented candles are widely available. The newest innovation being the utilisation of top quality natural waxes to produce the modern scented soy candle. These burn better, burn cleaner and last for longer.

I hope this fact based article has given you an insight into development of the common-or-garden candle. From an essential part of everyday living in times gone by to a luxury item today that improves our every day lives.

Natasha Kilby is a correspondent, broadcaster and historian. Have a look at Natasha’s favorite scented candles and find out more about the modern soy candle


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