Warm, romantic, rich, enlivening, homey, flattering to the complexion, prayerful, even mysterious and mystical—there's nothing quite like the atmospheric glow of candlelight. Though typically classified as yellow or golden, a flickering candle flame actually exhibits all the colors of the rainbow. A touch of candlelight can offer emotional appeal, a festive air, or a seductive sparkle to virtually any color palette.
Mirrored flame (top) by Jonathan Assink. Leaning flame (above) by photo-artiste.
According to Celtic lore, candlelight is the only illumination hospitable to shadow. "The ideal light to befriend the darkness, it gently opens up caverns in the darkness and prompts the imagination into activity. The candle allows the darkness to keep its secrets. There is shadow and color within every candle flame" (Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom, 1997).
A candle flame is composed of four distinct layers, visible to the naked eye. Each layer is a distinct color: white, light yellow, dark red (or brown or orange), and blue. At the base is a relatively cool blue layer (800° C), where the material of the burning candle is in contact with oxygen. A dark red cone surrounds the wick. Of low temperature (1000° C), this cone is formed of vaporized carbon molecules. Around the dark cone is a brighter layer of incandescent carbon (1200° C), light yellow in color. A thin outer envelope of hot white light (1400° C) is faintly luminous and tends toward yellow at the tip (where the carbon is completely combusted). A spectroscope reveals bright gaseous bands surrounding the outer envelope, colored yellow, green, blue, red, and violet.
The magic of candlelight offers a gold leaf finish to even the most squalid surroundings. "Candlelight takes the edge off clutter, mutes the blemish of povertyÑthe unupholstered, the unplastered, the peeling the tarnished, the unfinished. Candlelight relegates dust and dinge to the shadows, antiques all objects in a golden sepia tone and casts an oscillating incandescence that romanticizes even the sparest of dwellings. Candlelight elevates the street-picked, the shabby, the scavenged to haunting grandeur" (Laren Stover, Bohemian Manifesto, 2004).
The spectrum of these dinner candles inspired the Tapered Aura palette.
by Ramones Karaoke.
• A candle flame is hotter than lava (Pat Murphy, The Color of Nature, 1996)
• Candlelight intensifies the color of red. (The Atlantic Monthly, 1981)
• Candlelight may make blues and purples seem to disappear (Ed Smith, Classic Floral Designs, 2005)
• Almost everyone looks more attractive in candlelight, as complexions look rosier.
• The reddish part of a candle flame has the same color as the filament in a flashlight with a weak battery (Thomas Tighe, Modern Learning Theory, 1982)
• The intensity of light from a candle decreases proportionally with an increase in distance from the candle (J. L. Comstock, A System of Natural Philosophy, 1850)
About the Guest Author, Craig Conley
Craig is an independent scholar and author of dozens of strange and unusual books, including a unicorn field guide and a dictionary of magic words. He also loves color: Prof. Oddfellow