Not all candles are equal

Kristin DAliso

A candle is just wax that smells right? Not really, and the wax and scents get complicated. Let’s start with the wax. Most candles sold in big-box stores use paraffin wax, which is cheaper — and, unfortunately, is made with a byproduct of gasoline. There’s soy wax, which has a clean burn. Then there’s beeswax, which requires eight pounds of honey for every one pound of wax, and coconut wax, which can also be more expensive per pound than soy. So the choice of wax can add to the cost.

Then there are scents, which can get very expensive indeed (more on that in a bit). The wick is hardly worth mentioning as an expense, though as an obvious matter of health, we only use lead-free cotton ones.

Then there’s the actual vessel. For shipping purposes alone, the jar accounts for a quarter of the cost because of its weight. You’ll sometimes find that expensive candles have fancy jars, whether they’re handmade, crafted out of fine ceramic or other material, or maybe they’re particularly ornate. 

Fragrances are the most expensive element in candle making, by far. Many are blended with essential oils, which are directly derived from plants — and if you’ve ever seen the size of vials for essential oils, you’ll know that a little oil can cost a lot of money. Each candle requires a lot of oil, if you actually want to smell it. 

As with perfumes and colognes, oils and scents are sourced from all over the world — and are also synthesized. Some natural ones are expensive, and some synthetic ones are cheap. 

Yikes. What's the deal with hand-poured candles?

They’re more expensive to do from a labor standpoint. Obviously a machine to pour them gets expensive, but economies of scale can eventually take care of that and drive the unit cost down. Many expensive candles are hand-poured, and the labor involved in hand-pouring isn’t trivial, because you also have to factor in the packaging, fulfilling and shipping (if the candle is poured by hand, these other things are often done by hand too).

You have so many choices when it comes to selecting a new candle for your home. Before your next purchase, take some of these components I mention and invest in candles you can feel good about; brands that may have a powerful  brand message you believe in, or ones that use careful ingredients. We happen to 
possess both. 


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