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Arts and Crafts

Friday, September 07, 2012

The History Of Candles

Evidence has shown that the Chinese already made candles from whale fat during the time period of 221-206 BC, but the Egyptians already used wicked candles way before that; in 3,000 B.C., and the Romans are said to have invented the wicked candle even before that.

Rolled papyrus or rice paper was repeatedly dipped in melted fat or beeswax and used for illumination and ceremonies. Later on, the Chinese and Japanese used wax from plants, insects and seeds, while in India wax from boiling cinnamon served the purpose.

People from the Pacific Northwest used the eulachon, also referred to as 'candlefish', during the first century AD, as a light source by putting the dried fish on a stick and lighting it. Most Europeans used lamp oil made from olives and didn't use candles until the early middle-ages, when tallow (hardened animal fat) replaced olive oil. The latter had become difficult to obtain and very expensive.

Later on, the tallow was replaced by beeswax which burned more purely and cleanly then the animal fat and didn't produce such a smoky flame spreading an unpleasant odor, but it was rather expensive as well and beeswax candles were only used by the wealthy.

A much cheaper source became available in the late 18th century through the whaling industry. Whale wax, mainly derived from the sperm whale, became readily available and had the same benefits as beeswax, but could also stand up to the heat of the summer without having a melt-down.

More developments would follow suit and will be shared with you soon. So, I am asking for a little patience on your part, because burning the candle at both ends is not always feasible! :-)

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