Between 400,000 and one million years ago, our ancestors made fire. This one creation changed the course of daily life, and it would take yet another few hundred thousand more years, according to the National Candle Association in Washington, D.C., for candles to appear. Candles and candlesticks have since become fixtures of religious observances, a decorative note in homes and restaurants, and lighting them up has turned into a soothing personal ritual for many.
With home improvements on the upswing, candles (and candlesticks) have found a resurgence, as people are investing in these rather small but impactful additions.
People who sell candles have noticed. â€œTapers are absolutely a top-selling gift item,â€ said Sandeep Salter, the owner of Salter House, a home goods store in Brooklyn, referring to the candles that come to mind when you picture candlesticks.
The 7-inch-tall Twisted Beeswax Taper candles ($14 for two) are particularly popular at her shop, Ms. Salter said. â€œI think people have incorporated the ceremoniousness of candle lighting at mealtime into more of an everyday practice, like many other places in the world, itâ€™s no longer being held exclusively for big holiday tables.â€
For those in the market, there are several types of candles to choose from. In addition to tapers, which are thin, cylindrical and grow more slender toward one end, there are pillar candles, which have more heft and girth, requiring a candlestick with a wider space to insert or support them. Votive candles are smaller than pillars and tapers, and tea lights smaller still. Neither are typically much to look at on their own, but their holders can be no less exquisite as other candlesticks.
While you can pay a lot for a candle, you donâ€™t have to: Thrift stores and resale sites like eBay can be a treasure trove for finding them at a discount and in bulk. Candleholders can be inexpensive, too. There is the classic beatnik approach, sticking a taper in an old bottle of Chianti, or even carving a hole in a potato (or apple) â€” anything that keeps a candle upright and can catch the melting wax will work in a pinch.
Regardless of budget, pairing a candle and candleholder benefits from experimentation and unlikely couplings.
Candelabras, candlesticks and holders
The Murano-adjacent Candy Glass Short candlesticks ($135 for two) are 4 inches tall and available in four candy-shop-inspired colorways. Areawareâ€™s 2.5-inch-tall Terrace Candle Holder ($35), sold in three shades, is also made of glass and does double duty: one side can hold a votive candle, and the other, a taper.
Designed by Philippe Starck for Baccarat, the glass-and-crystal Harcourt Firestick ($1,220) is a favorite of Kathy Hilton. With the RW Guild Reed Candlestick (from $210), options abound. It is sold in eight heights, ranging from 2.5 to 16.25 inches tall, and three finishes, including silver and two brass treatments â€” an assortment that recalls the variety of Ted Muehlingâ€™s Biedermeier Candlesticks for E.R. Butler & Co. (from $250), which is available in 19 sizes, starting at 3 inches tall, and five metallic finishes.
Technically a candelabra, Virginia Sinâ€™s two-armed Duo Candlestick ($58) comes in four colors and is 2.5 inches tall. Technically not a candelabra, Tracy Renâ€™s Blue & White Candelabra ($88) is 3.5-inches tall, holds a single taper and is inspired by blue-and-white Chinese porcelain.
Like the coastal town it shares a name with, Astier de Villatteâ€™s ceramic Positano Candlestick ($385) is a sight to behold. Just more than 17-inches-tall, it can support pillars or tapers. Also designed to display both is x Lea & Nicolasâ€™s pair of 4.5- and 2-inch-tall holders made of terra cotta ($70 for two).
Far finer a material is the sterling silver of Georg Jensenâ€™s roughly six-inch-tall Grape Candlestick ($5,500). A purveyor to the Queen of Denmark, the maker introduced the design, embellished with tiny fruits, in 1930. If youâ€™re in the market for silver: In his prescriptive, out-of-print cookbook, â€œLiving and Eating,â€ the architect John Pawson recommends even older styles, including Georgian and Victorian candlesticks. â€œA surprising choice, perhaps, given their curves could undoubtedly be simplified, although not improved by subtraction,â€ Mr. Pawson writes.
Intricately crafted foliage adorns the 3-inch-tall Small Leaves Candle Holder ($66 for two) from Giacomo Alessi, an artisan based in Sicily who was designated a Living Human Treasure by UNESCO. Another timeless style: Tiffany & Companyâ€™s 10-inch-tall Classic Candlestick made of lead crystal ($100).
Farmhouse Pottery in Woodstock, Vt., designed the Essex Candlestick (from $55) for West Elm. Made of wood, it is sold in three sizes, from 5.5- to 9.5-inches-tall, and four colors. Colorful, too, is Geraldine Gonzalezâ€™s holder ($35), which is lined in painted tissue paper and becomes even more vibrant when a votive or tea candle is lit inside.
Taper and pillar candles
Abundant and affordable, IKEAâ€™s white Jubla tapers start at a 7.5 inches (from $8.99 for 20) and are made of stearin that the retailer says is derived from animal fat. The three-foot-tall tapers from Creative Candles ($42 for one) are a striking option that can be purchased in four colors. Their blended wax, according to the brand, includes beeswax, paraffin and carnauba.
Sister Moonsâ€™s Light-the-Night Beeswax tapers (from $30 for two) are sold in five shades and two sizes, an 11-inch height that is curvy and a 14-inch one that is more angular.
Crafted from beeswax in Oaxaca, Mexico, the Blush Floral Taper Candle ($45) is among a style native to that city, which are used to celebrate marriage proposals. House of Sakuâ€™s Round Earth Pillar Candle (from $39) looks as if it could have been cut from rock, but is made of palm wax, and sold in five sizes between 5.9- and 15-inches tall. Lex Pottâ€™s color-blocked Pillar Candle for Hay (from $45), made of paraffin wax, is also available in five heights, from 5.5- to 13.75-inches tall.
The elegant Graziani Lacquer Twist Tapers ($28 for two) are 11 inches tall, made of paraffin wax and sold in some 22 colors. More elegant still is the Double Spiral from Dadant ($20 for two). The beeswax taper, available in 12 colors, looks as if it is wrapped in ribbon.
And scented tapers, too?
While many beeswax candles have a light, sweet and pleasant smell, that doesnâ€™t quite count as â€œscented.â€ If youâ€™re looking for something distinctly pungent, consider Diptyqueâ€™s Berries Scented Taper Candle ($25). Like the French makerâ€™s popular Baies fragrance, it smells of berries and rose, and it is made with a blend of vegetable and mineral wax.
Loeweâ€™s Honeysuckle Wax Candleholder ($107), also scented, is a delightful optical illusion. Made of a paraffin-hydrocarbon wax blend, it is both taper candle and candlestick in one sculpted piece that looks almost too good to burn.
All Consuming is a column about things we see â€” and want to buy right now.