Historically, candles were made from many different materials. Some of the most common materials were tallow, fat, beeswax, spermaceti, colza oil and rapeseed oil. However, most of these materials are no longer popular because the candles manufactured from them are of poor quality, not to mention unhealthy.
The main problem with tallow candles is that animal fat usually produces too much smoke, and if you try to use a tallow candle indoors, the place will be full of smoke. Plus, because tallow candles contain glycerine, they produce an unpleasant odour when burnt.
As it was preferable to tallow, spermaceti, a substance obtained from sperm whales, became popular in candle-making a few centuries ago. However, because of the high demand for spermaceti, the sperm whale population declined dramatically. Fortunately, petroleum-derived paraffin wax became the dominant substance for candle-making, saving whales.
Candles are now made from a wide range of waxes. Waxes often do not have a distinct odour and can be found in a variety of colours, which makes them ideal for creating beautiful candles. The most prevalent ones are as follows:
Paraffin wax: A by-product of petroleum, paraffin wax has been one of the most common materials used in candle-making for more than a century. However, since recent studies showed that candles from paraffin wax produce some carcinogenic toxins, the material has been falling out of favour in recent years.
Beeswax: One of the oldest materials for candle-making is beeswax. Bees produce this material from their abdomen and use it to build their honeycomb hives. Since beeswax is harvested at the same time as honey and is rare compared to synthetic waxes, beeswax candles are often expensive.
Soy wax: This type of wax is produced from soybean and serves as a natural alternative to paraffin wax. Since soy wax can be produced more simply, it is less expensive than beeswax.
Coconut wax: A new trend in candle-making is the use of coconut wax, which is another all-natural alternative to paraffin wax. Coconut wax has a naturally sweet scent and can be easily dyed. It also lasts longer and emits less soot.
Palm wax: Palm wax is another natural and eco-friendly alternative to paraffin wax. It is made from palm trees and, like coconut and soy wax, has a long and clean burn.
Gel wax: Gel wax is a colourless substance composed of mineral oil and polymer resin. This material is widely used in candle art and manufacturing transparent jar candles since it holds dyes and perfumes well.