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A Brief History of Candles

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In the middle ages, a major improvement came to Europe in the form of a beeswax candle. It didn't produce a smoky flame and emitted a pleasant odour, unlike the foul, acrid odour of Tallow, which was currently being used. At the time only churches and the wealthy had them due to them being expensive.

In Colonial times the growth of the whaling industry brought a major change in candlemaking. When spermaceti, a wax, obtained by crystallizing sperm whale oil, became available in mass quantity. This was also firmer that Tallow or beeswax so it didn't soften during the summer heat. Historians note this as the first standard candle.

selling candles in the market

In 1820 another major development came, when French chemist Michael Eugene Chevreul, discovered a way to extract stearic acid from animal fat acids. This led to the development of Stearin wax, which is still popular to this day in Europe. Quickly following this was inventor Joseph Morgan. In 1834 he invented a machine that allowed for the continuous production of candles. This meant candles became a lot more affordable to the masses.

In the 1850's after chemists discovered how to separate the naturally occurring waxy substance from petroleum and refine it. It was odourless. Paraffin was a boost to candlemaking because it burned cleanly, consistently and was more economical. With the introduction of the light bulb, in 1879, it started a decline in candlemaking.

In the later 20th Century, candles began to have a steady popularity increase, until the mid 1980's, when interest in candles began to rise, as decorative items, mood setters and gifts. All of a sudden candles became readily available in a broad array of sizes, shapes and colours.

The 1990's witnessed an unprecedented surge in the popularity of candles and for the first time in more than a century, new types of candle waxes were being developed.

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