The first known candles were made by the ancient Greeks and Romans more than 2,500 years ago. They would have looked similar to the dipped candles of today, but were made from tallow – rendered fat from beef or mutton – so they would have had a very unpleasant smell. Tallow was still being used to make candles in Europe in the Middle Ages, and candle makers known as chandlers (from which we get the term ‘chandelier’) would collect animal fat saved from people’s kitchens. This was so noxious though that some European cities banned candle making within the city limits. Clearly a better and more tolerable solution was needed.
Across the world in China, whale-oil candles were said to have burned at the two-millennia-old Tomb of the First Qin Emperor, famed for the Terracotta Army. Texts from the Han and Jin dynasties that followed describe candles made from precious beeswax. Around the same time, in North America, some indigenous people got their light from the oil of a fish known today as the candlefish. This fish could be simply dried, stuck on a stick and then lit to serve as a primitive candle (probably not most people’s scent of choice!). Much more pleasant-smelling beeswax, first used in China, was rediscovered as a candlemaking material in medieval Europe, but it was prohibitively expensive and only available to royalty and the wealthy, so the search was on for a more affordable alternative.
For a while the growth of the whaling industry led to whale oil being used again, and people also experimented with plant-based alternatives until, in the middle of the 19th century, the first oil refinery was built leading to the mass production of the first paraffin wax candles. These did not have the strongly unpleasant odour of earlier candles and were relatively inexpensive, so paraffin wax became the dominant candle material for the next hundred years. However, for all of its convenience, paraffin wax was still an unsustainable chemical byproduct of fossil fuel processing. In recent decades, as people became more conscious of the environment and the benefits of sustainable, natural products, the search for the perfect candle material continued. Looking once again to nature, this time with the knowledge acquired over thousands of years, the search finally culminated in the discovery of the wonderful, pure soy wax that we use in our candles today.
Made from sustainable soybeans, our soy wax is paraffin-free, paraben-free, non-toxic and suitable for vegans. It burns slowly and evenly giving you many hours of that wonderfully warm candle light, and the pure, natural base means that the amazing fragrance oils and essential oils that we use in our scented candles can really shine. We think it can’t be bettered.
We hope that you enjoyed this brief history of candlemaking across the ages. Every candle in our surprisingly affordable range of luxury scented soy wax candles has its own story to tell, so check out our collections and our product pages to find out which story speaks to you.