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The History of Candles

Before electricity, candles were used a source of light. They’ve been used for thousands of years, and yet little is known about their origins. The earliest use of candles can be traced back to ancient Egypt where rushlights were made by soaking reeds in melted animal fat. Today, candles are much more refined. They may no longer be a primary source of light, but they play a role in modern celebrations and have become a popular décor element in many homes.

At LAFCO, we consider candle-making both an art and a craft. You’ll see why the first time you light one of our luxuriously fragranced candles. To truly understand what makes LAFCO candles so special, however, you need to know a little more about the history of candles.

The Origins of Wicked Candles

Though the ancient Egyptians made rushlights using reeds and animal fat, their candles didn’t typically have wicks. The ancient Romans are credited with developing the first wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus in melted tallow or beeswax. These candles were used to aid travelers at night and to light homes in addition to being used in religious ceremonies.

Early wicked candles were typically made from wax derived from plants and insects. Japanese candles were made from wax extracted from tree nuts and Chinese candles were molded in rice paper tubes, made with a combination of wax from seeds and indigenous insects. In India, candle wax was created by boiling the fruit of the cinnamon tree.

Candles quickly became known for the important role they played in early religious ceremonies. The Jewish tradition Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, centers around the lighting of candles and dates back to 165 BC. There are numerous biblical references to candles and the Emperor Constantine himself called for the use of candles in an Easter service during the 4th century.

The Art of Candle Making

Beeswax candles were introduced in Europe during the Middle Ages. This was important because, unlike tallow, beeswax burns cleanly and without a smoky flame. It also has a much sweeter smell than tallow. Beeswax candles came to be the preference for church ceremonies but, because they were expensive, few people used them at home. Candle makers would travel from house to house making candles from reserved kitchen fats or would sell candles in their own shops.

During colonial times, American women discovered that boiling the berries of bayberry bushes produced a clean-burning, sweet-smelling wax. Because the process to extract the wax was tedious, however, bayberry candles didn’t remain popular for long. The growth of the whaling industry in the late 18th century led to the use of spermaceti in candles but most of the major developments in candle making happened during the 19th century.

During the 1820s, French chemist Michael Eugene Chevreul found a way to extract stearic acid from animal fat which led to the creation of a hard, durable, and clean-burning wax called stearin wax. In 1834, Joseph Morgan invented a machine for the continuous production of molded candles which turned candles into an affordable commodity for the masses.

Paraffin wax came about during the 1850s and remained popular until candle making began to decline following the introduction of the lightbulb in 1879. The growth of the meatpacking and oil industries in the U.S. led to renewed popularity in the first half of the 20th century and by the latter half of the century, candles had become popular as decorative items and gifts.

What Makes LAFCO Candles Unique?

When you light a LAFCO candle, you’ll enjoy a clean burn and luxurious fragrance. Our candles come in three sizes and burn from 50 to 120 hours. Each candle is hand-poured and delivered in a handblown art glass vessel you can repurpose for continued enjoyment, long after your candle has burned out.

A good candle comes down to the materials from which it is made. At LAFCO, we use a solid soy wax that is naturally derived from vegetables and 100% biodegradable. Each candle features a 100% cotton wick for a clean, non-toxic burn, and essential oil-based fragrance for a true scent. We offer over a dozen different scents for individual purchase as well as giftsets featuring complementary fragrances.

Enjoy the luxury of LAFCO fragrance in one of these popular candles:

  • Amber – Take in the understated luxury of deep golden amber and mellow labdanum brightened with fiery notes of herbal incense. Available in the Classic 6.5-ounce and Signature 15.5-ounce sizes, this impeccable fragrance deserves your attention.
  • Terracotta – The lush fragrance of bergamot and geranium wafts gently over hints of lemon and grapefruit, accented with terracotta, patchouli, and oakmoss. Enjoy this warm fragrance with a 50-hour burn time in the Classic 6.5-ounce size or 90 hours in the larger 15.5-ounce Signature.
  • Marine – A 3-wick, 30-ounce candle is the perfect way to enjoy your favorite scent. Our Marine fragrance gives you the feeling of dipping your toes in cool ocean water as you breathe in wet floral notes of sea jasmine and water lily with accents of bergamot.
  • Star Magnolia – The perfect fragrance to freshen up your guest room, this scent combines the light fragrance of magnolia, muguet, and jasmine with hints of bamboo wood and orange flower. Enjoy it in the Classic or Signature size.
  • French Lilac – Bring the blooming fragrance of French lilac into your home with this hand-poured candle. In this gentle scent, a bouquet of lilac, heliotrope, muguet, and hyacinth hovers over an undertone of carnation and leafy greens.

Why choose a single LAFCO fragrance when you can enjoy them all? Try a candle duo available in Classic and Signature sizes featuring complementary combinations like Amber Black Vanilla and Sandalwood or Terracotta and Watermint Agave. If you can’t decide which fragrance to try, use the Fragrance Finder to be paired with the perfect fragrance. You won’t be disappointed.

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