How Candle Wax Has Evolved Over the Ages

The history of candle making wax dates back at least 3,000 years. What people referred to as a candle prior to that was usually grease in a non-combustible container with straw thrown in to act as the wick. The Romans are credited with making candles by pouring the tallow over a wick material, resembling modern candles.

The first candles that were made were from tallow, a wax made from animal fat. The kind of animal did not matter. Most people used the fat from whatever animal they were slaughtering at the time. Tallow made functional candles, but they smelled bad and smoked a lot.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, whale oil became a popular source of candle wax for those living near the oceans. It produced about as good a product as the animal fat.

In the middle ages, Europeans hit on the idea of ​​using beeswax to make candles. This was not very successful at the time because it was so hard to get enough wax to make them. Beeswax candles are still made today, but they are expensive because it is still difficult to harvest the wax. Beeswax is preferred by many candle makers because it is naturally aromatic and has wonderful burn characteristics.

American colonial women are said to have discovered that bayberries produced a sweet smelling wax while the berries were steeped. This led to the first candles produced with bayberry wax. Although the candles were much better than the animal fat ones used by the masses, it was difficult to produce a lot of candles because it took so many berries to yield a very small amount of wax.

Bayberry candles became synonymous with early Christmas gifts and good will. They are still made today, unlike the tallow candles. Bayberry candles, like beeswax candles, are naturally aromatic. They also are tinted green because of the characteristics of the berries. Candle makers today replicate colonial candles using bayberry, and these are very popular at craft shows.

The greatest majority of candles produced are made with paraffin wax. Although paraffin has been given a lot of bad press in recent years, it still is the worldwide choice of commercial candle makers. It is made from oil by-products, and it emits some toxins as it is burned. Paraffin wax is available in different melting points, each one normally used to produce a specific candle type.

An increasingly popular choice for candle makers is soy wax. It is made from the plentiful soybean, and it is inexpensive to buy. It is too soft to use in pillar candles, but does fine in containers. It is safer than paraffin because it does not produce toxins as it burns. Soy wax is also sold mixed with other waxes to raise its melting point, making it acceptable to use in pillar candles.

There are four primary candle waxes that are used at the present time: soy, bayberry, beeswax, and paraffin. Whichever candle making wax you choose from this list will produce a well functioning candle.