The Versatility of Wax
Part of this versatility, of course, comes down to the fact that what we call “wax” is a very broad term encompassing a large range of materials coming from various sources and created through a variety of different means. Bees’ wax, for example, has an entirely different origin than, say, paraffin wax, though they share enough features in common that they can still both be classified as a wax.
Bees famously make wax, but they are not the only insects to do so. So-called “Chinese wax”, for example, is another wax naturally secreted by insects, the Ceroplastes ceriferus and the Ericerus pela, both found only in Asia and the surrounding regions, and is mostly used in traditional medicine and for ceremonial purposes.
More popular for most common uses are the waxes synthesised by humans from petroleum products. More commonly known as paraffin wax, these were created in Germany in the early 19th Century, and quickly became the material of choice for the country’s chandlers, which until then had been making their candles from tallow (rendered fat from beef or mutton). Paraffin wax proved to be both cheaper to produce and more suitable for use in candles, as it burned for longer and with a cleaner flame.
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