why are candles so expensive

Why Do Candles Cost So Much?

And why they’re worth skipping one nice dinner for.

Tristan Kallas
Sometimes I’ll be washing up in a friend’s bathroom and be pleasantly surprised to see what I know is a $8.99 candle burning with a fragrance that I really like. Maybe a waft of fresh herbs like lavender or basil sets it apart from the $3 drugstore candles and makes it feel a little more sophisticated. But this is rare. Nine times out of 10, I find that candles less than $30 or so are kind of…gross. Or maybe immature is a better word. You know, the really saccharine ones your aunt gives you for Christmas, or that you end up with after a white elephant gift exchange. My current favorite is a Carlen candle that would have cost me $85 if I didn’t (very gratefully) receive a comp for a review. But that’s a lot of dough compared to what I could easily throw into my basket on a random Whole Foods run. So…why?

“Usually, our customers are aware of the pricing, but we had cases where people would walk in and ask for Diptyque, for example, and when hearing $65, would turn around, shaking their heads in disbelief!” says Robert Gerstner, co-owner of the iconic New York fragrance boutique Aedes de Venustas, which sells hundreds of luxury candles ranging from a $55 Agraria to a $525 five-wick Cire Trudon, as well as their namesake candle for $85. “Creating the right scent for a candle can be more challenging than creating a fragrance. There are a lot of tests involved by specialists, to make sure the right amount of oils is used versus wax, et cetera.”

In other words, to create a candle that can “throw”—send its scent out—there needs to be an exact right mix of paraffin and beeswax. And the fragrance itself can cost the manufacturer and, in turn, you, some real cash. “A perfumer definitely might add to the cost of a candle,” says Gerstner. A “nose” is a professional like, for example, Coveteur alum Douglas Little, who creates Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP fragrances and candles. Another major cost can simply be the quality of the raw material, explains Gerstner. “We have one candle in our collection, where the price for one kilo of the oils is much higher than in one of the most expensive [liquid] fragrances we have in our collection.”

Add it all up, and you might have one budget-blowing work of art on your hands (especially when the wax is literally molded into a work of art, such as the Cire Trudon Benjamin Franklin candle you’ll see below). That or the perfect ambiance to make your home really feel like home. And it’s certainly harder to put a price tag on that.

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