Before the introduction of electricity in the 20th century, candles were the most important light source. Traditionally, candles were made from foul-smelling animal fat or tallow often saved from cooking. In Egypt, torches and candles were made by soaking or dipping a papyrus core in fat. Primitive candles were used by everyone from common people to royalty and temple priests. Egyptians had extensive knowledge of perfumery, essential oils, and natural resins. Plant resins were an important trade commodity and essential oils were used extensively for personal hygiene. The first scented candles combined the art of perfumery with wick technology used for oil lamps. Because tallow candles were foul-smelling, the addition of scented oils was a practical necessity of the time.
Throughout history, many natural ingredients have been used to make candles. In Asia, each culture had a unique candlemaking recipe. In the Far East, rice paper was used to create candle wicks and forms for molding pillar candles. Fatty oils from seeds and tree nuts were popular and plentiful ingredients for creating candles that emitted a sweet-smelling fragrance when burned. In India, tallow candles were banned from temples instead cinnamon fruits were boiled and skimmed to make pleasantly-scented candle wax. In the new world, Colonial settlers took advantage of the native bayberry plant as source for making candle wax. To create one pound of the legendary green wax, settlers had to harvest and cook approximately 20 pounds of bayberries. The tedious extraction process and poor production ratio made the naturally-fragrant bayberry candles a high-value product. Today’s scented candles are made from advanced waxes and oil blends that are available in a multitude of scents from freshly mowed grass to spicy pumpkin pie and relaxing aromatherapy blends.