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The Candlestick Corner BLOG

...from candle-lit dinners to candle safety-first. A blog by Claire - Unique Candleholders

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A Brief History of Candles

With thanks to Wikepedia

Posting date: 14th March 2007 11:13

Candles were developed independently in many countries. The Egyptians and Cretans made candles from beeswax, as early as 3000 BC. Early candles were made from various forms of natural fat, tallow, and wax. In the 18th century, spermaceti, an oil produced by the sperm whale, was used to produce superior candles. Late in the 18th century, colza oil and rapeseed oil came into use as much cheaper substitutes. Paraffin was first distilled in 1830, and revolutionized candle-making, as it was an inexpensive material which produced high-quality, odorless candles that burned reasonably cleanly. The industry was devastated soon after, however, by the distillation of kerosene (confusingly also called paraffin oil or just paraffin ). This excellent fuel for lamps relegated candles to their current status as primarily decorative items.

Timekeeping

With the fairly consistent and measurable burning of a candle, a common use was to tell the time. Candles designed for this purpose might have time measurements, usually in hours, marked along the wax. The Sung dynasty in China (960–1279) used candle-clocks. By the 18th century, candle-clocks were being made with weights set into the sides of the candle. As the candle melted, the weights fell off and made a noise as they fell into a bowl. A form of candle-clock was used in coal-mining until the 20th century.

In the days leading to Christmas some people burn a candle a set amount to represent each day, as marked on the candle. Candles used in this way are called Advent candles, although this term is also used to refer to the candles which decorate an Advent wreath.

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