Everything You Need to Know About Candles!

A bit of history ~

Candles have been used as source of light for 5000 years. It’s ancient methods of candle making are attributed to the Egyptians, who made rushlights or torches by soaking the pithy core of reeds in melted animal fat. However, the rushlights had no  wick.

The ancient Romans are generally credited with developing the wicked candle by dipping rolled papyrus repeatedly in melted tallow or beeswax. The resulting candles were used to light their homes, to aid travelers at night, and in religious ceremonies.

Candles were commonplace throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Candle makers were known as Chandlers and made candles from fats saved from the kitchen or sold their own candles from within their shops.

Colonial women offered America’s first contribution to candle making, when they discovered that boiling the berries of bayberry bushes produced a sweet-smelling wax that burned cleanly. However, extracting the wax from the bayberries was extremely tedious. As a result, the popularity of bayberry candles soon diminished.

In the 1820s, French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul discovered how to extract stearic acid from animal fatty acids. This led to the development of stearin wax, which was hard, durable and burned cleanly.

Paraffin wax was introduced in the 1850s, after chemists learned how to efficiently separate the naturally-occurring waxy substance from petroleum and refine it. Odourless and bluish-white in colour, paraffin was a boom to candle making because it burned cleanly, consistently and was more economical to produce than any other candle fuel. Its only disadvantage was a low melting point. This was soon overcome by adding the harder stearic acid, which had become widely available. 

Then, with the introduction of the light bulb in 1879, candle making began to decline.

But  in the 1990s, an unprecedented surge in the popularity of candles occurred. And for the first time in more than a century, new types of candle waxes were being developed.. Soy, Plant, Coconut …Natural low melting point waxes which burn cleaner and also require a container.  Ideal waxes for dispersing scent.

A majority of candles today are “container candles”, purchased for their specific fragrance.

Candles have come a long way since their initial use. Over the centuries there has been a number of methods for creating candle light. From rice paper and insects in China to cinnamon tree nuts in India, candles have been an important  part of our history bringing light to the world. While they are no longer used as a major source of light, they continue to serve and symbolise celebration, ignite romance, soothe the senses, create fragrant environments, honour a ceremony, accent home decors -  always casting a warmth and glow for all to enjoy.


The Candle ~

Making candles is a beautiful mixture of art plus science.  At Living Light, we strive to blend the two together for the ultimate candle experience.  

The key factors for a quality burning candle are ingredients, the making, and finally the maintenance, which is equally important for optimum candle performance.

The key factors for a quality burning scented candle is:

  • the quality of wax
  • the quality of fragrance
  • correct wick
  • the making

What Type of Wax?

At Living Light, we use three main wax types for the candles we create.  Each wax is carefully formulated and produced to create a beautiful burning candle!

Pure Soy Wax

Sow wax was invented in the early 1990’s when a candlemaker from Iowa, USA was looking for a cheaper substitute to Bees Wax. Little did he know how popular it would become!  Made from hydrogenated soybeans oil, it blends well with other oils such as essential and fragrant oils, and it’s low melting point makes the perfect container candle, as with little heat from the wick, it creates a soft pool of liquid wax allowing the scent to disperse into the air easily. 

Plant and NZ Beeswax

Our Plant and NZ Beeswax formulation was created inhouse 15 years ago. This special blend of natural waxes gives a unique crystalline feature.  A very hard wax, it withstands high heat and does not melt in the sun. Our top selling candle ~ the Icicle is made from this blend. The precise wax mix + fragrance + wick creates the unique sculptural lace-like pattern as it burns, resembling Gaudi’s Cathedral in Spain.


Paraffin is made from petroleum and we no longer make paraffin candles to burn. 

The Mystery of Scent

Creating a scent is both magical and challenging; intuition and experience become our tools. We have built up a fragrance library of essential oils and parfum fragrances over 22 years.  Many of our scents are not a single fragrance submission but a layering we create inhouse. Coming up with ‘the one’’ is like finding a needle in a haystack. It may take 100 samples from fragrances houses around the world, before finding a scent we adore and simply must include in our collection. We also test amongst a number of our customers to ensure they feel the same way too, our customers favourite notes are our starting point when it comes to designing a new fragrance.

Once we discover the scent, we most love, we then test it in the wax.  If we are using the fragrance in matching products, we test them in each mix as the base it is mixed in contributes to the overall scent.  For example; the fragrance in soy wax can smell different in plant & beeswax or in our reed diffuser blend. The amount of fragrance we use, also has an effect on the wick and how it burns.

The Science of Wicks

Once we are happy with the scent and amount of scent, we then trial the wicks.

All of our wicks are pure braided cotton of the highest standard. The candle wick influences how the candle burns. A candle wick works by capillary action, conveying the fuel to the flame. When the liquid fuel, typically melted candle wax, reaches the flame it then vaporizes and combusts.

The "performance" of the candle will be greatly influenced by our ability to select the proper wick for each type of candle that we make. The wick will influence the burn time of the candle, scent throw and "sooting" or smoking during the candle’s life.  There is not one perfect wick that will work for each and every application. The right wick is dependent on many factors including the type of candle, wax type, scent, and colour.

There are thousands of wicks to choose from and fortunately the established wick companies give supporting information to begin the wick finding journey.  Testing for the ‘right’ wick can take days even weeks of test burning to find the winner!  Our product development for a new fragranced candle is planned well ahead.

The Art & Psychology of Colour

To create colour successfully one needs to understand the basic principles of colour mixing theory.  The primary mixing colours are Red, Blue & Yellow. These 3 basic colours can create a myriad of hues (colour), tones (adding grey, values (degree of lightness or darkness), and intensity (colour strength).

Over the years we have developed a library of colour recipes we rely on when developing new colour offerings.

To create our colour palette we look at the offering together as a whole….like a painting, to ensure the colours enhance each other as they stand side by side on display.

To come up with a winning colour can take weeks of tweaking.  The type of wax and the fragrance also have an effect on the result, so we must develop with the fragrance included in the testing.

Most fascinating, is the effect of colour on the human psyche.  Colour is a wavelength.  As light strikes the eye, each wavelength does so slightly differently. Red, the longest wavelength needs the most adjustment to look at it, while green requires no adjustment whatever and is the most restful hue. In the eye's retina, these vibrations of light are converted into electrical impulses which travel to the brain - ending up in the hypothalamus, which controls the endocrine glands, which in turn regulates our hormones. Put simply, each colour (wavelength) focuses on a particular part of the body, stimulating a specific physiological response, which in turn evokes a psychological reaction.

Each year there is a Pantone Colour of the year  chosen to reflect what is taking place in our global culture – 2020 is classic blue – a colour that anticipates what is going to happen next.  How appropriate this choice is for the state of world affairs this year.

The Fun of Making!

The evolution of our candle offering over two decades of making has established a recognized level of quality and refinement.  Our dedicated team of candle creators are passionate about the results.

I believe every candle maker at Living Light would say producing these beautiful “light” babies is fun and rewarding most of the time!

The key to success is the “right ingredients”, the temperature of the wax, and the environment.  And very important …procedure matters.

As the wick is fundamental in a “quality” burn - keeping it straight with solid wax around it is crucial for the optimum burn.  Air pockets around the wick cause smoking.

Once the candle is made, we let it set (cure) for 24 - 48 hours before finishing and handing it over to the labeling room for final preparation.

The Importance of Maintenance

 You may well have thought burning a candle was as simple as putting a match to a wick... this may be true for birthday candles but there is a bit more to it, if you want to get the most out of your candle. In fact, the better you prepare a candle, the longer you’ll enjoy it.

The natural ingredients of our candles respond to environment.  And just like humans, we all have different make up.  Some of us are quite robust to cold weather or hot temperature and some are not. It is all about knowing your candle make up and how to best care for it.

Soy Jar Candle Maintenance

Soy is a soft wax and therefore more effected to heat and cold. It is also best as a container candle and wise to keep your soy candles out of the sun or protected from the sun with a lid on the container. If the environment is super cold then your wax might crack, but not to worry…the candle will still burn beautifully if all other conditions have been met, because the wax turns viscose very quickly once the wick is burning and creates a liquid effect.

It is best to burn your soy jar candle until the pool of wax reaches to the edge of your vessel.   This will help set the candle up for an even burn the duration of its life. In candle terms this is called “setting” the memory.

When you blow out your candle it is best to have a candle snuffer, but if you don’t, then make sure you blow softly to prevent the liquid wax flying everywhere.

Before relighting, ensure your wick is trimmed to approximately 2.5 cm before you relight it.  And ensure the wick debris does not fall into your wax.  A wax trimming scissors is very helpful. Or use a small flat surface (a little plate will do) close to the wick so the debris falls on to the small flat surface as you trim your wick. Trimming your wick is very important! If the wick is longer than 2.5 cm then the flame will only be burning the wick and not the wax.  This creates unnecessary soot and smoke.

Plant & Beeswax Candle Maintenance

Plant & Beeswax Candles are hard wax candles with a unique crystalline structure.

This structure is formed from the difference in the cooling temperature. This special wax formula gives the candle advantage of not melting in the sun.  The shape of these candles dictates the best practice for burning.

With standard pillar candles, again we recommend “setting the memory”.  The wax creates a paper like shell as the candle burns down so it is important to only burn your candle for 2-3 hours at a time or the melted wax can burst through the wax wall of the candle. 

Our famous Icicle candle has less rules.  You simply light it and let the magic happen!  The only thing you might have to do is trim the wick before relighting.

The crystalline structure of this sculptural candle develops a unique lace-like pattern as it burns. This multi-sensory candle not only smells amazing, but changes form as the melted wax drips down the side of the candle creating an icicle effect.  A plate to catch the drippings is important.

In conclusion ~

A candle’s special essence is what goes in: the quality, the experience, the knowledge. And the love is what shines out.  From one candle lover to another I hope you enjoyed this article!

Cynthia Baur ~ founder & creator











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