From around AD300 to the late 18th, when oil lamps appeared, candles were the normal form of domestic lighting. They were made of tallow (animal fat) or beeswax. Wax candles were 3 times the price and indicated both wealth and social position. Candles were lit using a tinder box, or strike-a-light. A spark, struck from a flint with a steel, ignited a small quantity of flammable material. Candle flames were extinguished using a candle douter (or snuffer); either a small cone on the end of a long handle or a dual purpose scissor like tool which could both extinguish the candle flame and also cut the wick of the candle for reuse. Prior to the 19th century, when the self-consuming wick was invented, it was essential to trim the candle wick which would otherwise burn itself out. Tallow candles needed to be snuffed much more frequently than wax – 8 to 10 times an hour.
The old saying “early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” from Benjamin Franklin’s 18th century Almanack may have its roots in saving candlelight and thus saving money. Purchased candles were counted as luxuries even in well-to-do households. Few domestic silver candlesticks still exist before the reign of Charles II and 17th century examples are usually made from sheet silver and are light in weight. Cast candlesticks started to appear circa 1685 and are much heavier in weight. The first loaded candlesticks appeared circa 1765 and are made of sheet silver, and not cast. Although many early candlesticks had fixed nozzles the first cast candlesticks were made without these useful drip pans. During the period c.1735-50 candlesticks with detachable nozzles appeared which facilitated much easier cleaning. Hardly any silver candelabra survive from before the mid-18th century. Most candelabra have a detachable upper section which allows the candlesticks to be used on their own. Available in many different combinations, the smallest candelabra have just 2 arms with 2 or 3 candle lights and the largest could have an impressive 8 branches with 9 lights. In antique times candelabra use signified burning many candles at once, an expense justified only when a number of people met or when a large room had to be lighted. Nowadays candelabras are popularly used to create an intimate atmosphere at the dining table allowing friends and acquaintances to converse across the flickering lights. Silver chambersticks first made an appearance in the 17th century and early examples are now very hard to find. Originally they were made in sets as a household would need many chambersticks. They were used for lighting the way to bed and because of the movement created when they were carried about they needed a large drip pan to catch the wax. The earliest examples have straight handles (first flat, then tubular) which were superceded in the first part of the 18th century by a ring handle. Gradually the design evolved and from the mid 18th century onwards they usually had a matching conical snuffer although from about 1790 onwards some were made with an aperture at the base of the stem to take a pair of scissor snuffers. Silver tapersticks, averaging about 5 inches high, are miniature table candlesticks used to hold a wax taper. Tapersticks were not used for lighting but melted sticks of wax for sealing letters or gave a flame for tobacco pipes or large candles. They are rarer than candlesticks and very few existed prior to the Queen Anne period. They usually appear in singles and pairs of tapersticks command a premium price. The silver wax jack appeared circa 1775 and was a container or frame holding a long coiled taper treated with wax (sometimes turpentine). The wax was lit to melt the sealing wax used to fasten letters and documents and usually a personal seal was pressed into the hot wax to leave a personal identification. After the wax hardened it was virtually impossible to open the letter without breaking the wax seal. The wax jack could also used as a portable light such as the chamber stick or go to bed. Silver candle snuffers and stands. Two different types of candle douters were used to extinguish the flame of a candle. The extinguisher which was a small cone on the end of a long handle and the snuffer which was a dual purpose scissor like tool which could extinguish the candle flame and also cut the wick of the candle for reuse. There were few snuffers made prior to 1700 and by the early nineteenth century more refined candles were introduced which no longer required the wick to be cut. Additional information available at http://www.oldandinteresting.com/tallow-candles-snuffers.aspx. Snuffer trays are usually rectangular or oval shaped and can sometimes be raised on feet or have a carrying handle. Some early stands, called standing snuffers, are shaped like a candlestick with a side carrying handle and a hole at the top where the point of the snuffer scissors is inserted – these were very quickly superceded by the flat snuffer tray and scissors. It is rare now to find matching snuffers and base. Snuffers and trays were usually made by different specialists so even though the dates match, the makers will probably be different. The 17th and 18th century lantern was very economical as it shielded the candle from the wind outside and from drafts when used inside the house, thus allowing the wax or tallow stick to burn more slowly and steadily. The archaic name, lanthorn, refers to the thin sheets of translucent horn used to fashion the sides of the early lanterns before they were made of glass. Wall Sconces were wall lights with a back plate from which a ''branch'' or candle socket extended. The back plate, usually of mirror glass or polished metal, reflected light back into a room and magnified the light from each candle. The back or wall plate also afforded some protection from drafts. The term itself comes from the old French word esconse, meaning lantern or hiding place and from the Dutch word, schans, for protection or cover. The use of oil lamps dates back to ancient times and there are Greek and Egyptian lamps which date back to the 3rd century BC. The oil lamp was used as an alternative to candles and produced light continuously for a period of time using an oil-based fuel source. In small towns and rural areas they remained in use until well into the 20th century, until such areas were finallyelectrified and light bulbs could be used.