by Jonathan Assink
The Electrifying Colors of Candlelight
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.
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 poverty—the 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).
[Read the entire article in my guest blog