The first kind of candle wax produced was made from animal fats and although they were a natural wax, this kind of candle burned badly and had a malodorous stench that came with it. However, over time, other types of candle wax that are clean burning, sweet-smelling and long-lasting are now widely available, and much more popular.
Soy wax is a new wax on the candle making scene but has taken a solid hold. With the demand for “natural” candles growing, soy wax was developed in the early 1990s as an alternative to the petroleum-derived paraffin, and the natural—but expensive—beeswax. Like paraffin, soy wax comes in a variety of blends and melting points, though the most common soy waxes are container candle blends.
Many of the soy waxes are made from 100% soybean oil. Others are blended with other vegetable oils (like coconut) and waxes (like palm and beeswax.) There are also a number of paraffin/soy blends out there that capitalize on the benefits of both waxes. Note that as long as the blend is at least 51% soy, it is called soy.
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Candle gel wax is not actually a wax at all. It is a combination of resin and mineral oil. The Penreco company holds the patent for gel wax, so chances are if you’re making gel candles, your wax came from them. It is similar to other waxes in that it holds scent and colour and melts and burns. The difference is in the transparency that allows for an entirely different variety of candles to be made from it, and it is often used to imitate water or other liquids like beer or wine. In the past, there has only been gel wax for votive or container candles, but recently some gel that is firm enough to make pillars out of has come onto the market.
Beeswax is probably the oldest candle making wax. Beeswax candles were found in the pyramids. Beeswax is produced by bees as a by-product of the honey making process. Their wax is excreted by the bees into “combs” to incubate their larvae. Since it is infused with honey during its creation, it naturally has a sweet fragrance which will vary slightly depending on what flowers or plants the bees are feeding on. After it is harvested from the beehive, it is melted and filtered several times. Candlemakers can purchase beeswax in blocks or slabs, like paraffin, in “pastilles” (little pellets) which melt very easily, or in pre-rolled sheets, which can be easily made into candles without any melting at all.
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