|Different Types and Qualities of Stained Glass
Are The Different Types And Qualities Of Stained Glass?
times we meet people who are interested in stained glass, but
they haven't learned enough about it to really be able to tell
whether a piece of glass is a true work of art or just a good
piece. I once overheard a woman gushing over a piece of glass
that had been painted with fake glass paints, the kind that craft
stores sell. "Oh, Look at that, I love stained glass, that
is just exquisite!" Her comments were nice since she had
an appreciation for art glass, but they were also ridiculous because
painted fake glass just isn't in the same class as other techniques
and certainly should never be described as "exquisite".
that incident prompted me to write this brief description of what
the different types and qualities of stained glass are. After
reading the following paragraphs, you will be more qualified and
more able to distinguish between good glass and great glass than
the majority of people you meet. You will be well on your way
towards becoming a "Stained Glass Expert."
Brass And Glass - made of Brass pre-shaped metal (or brass
encased lead), called "came". The stained glass is encased
in the pre-formed metal and the joints where the metal meets are
then soldered. After the panel is completed and soldered, the
joints are colored with a brass colored paint so that they look
Brass windows match the brass plated hardware on many homes. Brass
windows are almost always mass produced, so cost is usually lower
than other styles of stained glass.
Brass windows usually don't get the glass and metal cemented to
each other, so they are not as strong and have a tendency to rattle
more often than any other stained glass window. If the panel is
sandwiched between tempered glass sheets, the lack of strength
is not a big deal.
This is the lowest quality of stained glass available and is usually
found in cheap furniture and mass produced door frames. It hasn't
been around for a long time and is often associated with the cheap
waterbeds of the 1960's.
Leaded Glass - refers to both beveled glass and colored
glass surrounded by pre-shaped lead, called "came".
The stained glass is encased in lead and the joints where the
metal meets are then soldered. The solder and the lead look very
similar, so no special treatments are needed in the joints as
with brass came. After the panel is completed and soldered, the
windows are cemented by forcing cement in under the metal and
the glass. Then the exposed glass is cleaned thoroughly.
Lead construction is the most common type of stained glass to
be found. If cemented well the window is fairly strong. The leaded
method is fast to construct, so is quite popular in commercial
If the window isn't cemented, the lead will easily stretch over
time and the glass shapes will deform quite easily. Windows that
are placed in insulated units can't be cemented because the cement
reacts with the desiccant in the foam tape used to create insulated
This is the mid-range of stained glass quality. It's not bad,
just not the best. There is pretty good detail available in this
type of panel and it is quite good for many styles of glass design.
If it wasn't fairly good it wouldn't be found in so many highly
Copper Foiled or "Tiffany Style" Glass - refers
to stained glass construction where each piece of glass is individually
wrapped in a copper foil tape and the gaps between the glass are
soldered with lead and tin based solder, usually 50/50 mix or
60/40 mix. After the panel is completed it is very strong and
pretty often water tight. Chemicals are then added to color the
lead lines, either copper, bronze or black. The lines can also
be left pewter-like gray or they can be polished to bright shiny
silver. It's often called "Tiffany Style" because the
studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany are credited with coming up with
the method in the late 1800's.
Copper foiled windows are very strong and allow the artist the
most detail of any of the construction methods. It also allows
for the most ranges of patinas of the methods discussed. The copper
foil method allows an artist to follow contours and so lamp shades
and other 3d construction is almost always built using this method.
It takes a lot of work and is more labor intensive to hand solder
each and every solder line in a stained glass window, so these
panels usually cost more than the leaded type. Also, because the
resulting windows are so very strong, they can develop very slight
hairline cracks as the glass expands and contracts in the heat
of the day and the cool of the night. These cracks usually develop
in the first year after a panel is installed and are minor.
This is the highest quality of stained glass, but there are different
ranges of quality in this style. Imports will often have very
thin lead lines not as a design element, but as a way to save
money on the amount of lead used to construct the panel. The highest
quality of copper foil constructed lamps will feature a built
up lead line which will often stand up the same height as an extruded
lead line. Best quality soldering will feature very consistent
lead lines and few if any areas where the lead has shrunk after
Epoxy Glued Faceted Glass - refers to a technique where
thick slabs of glass are broken in rough pieces and glued together
using epoxy glue to form the joint between the various pieces
of glass. It's very uncommon and not available in any but the
most unusual commercial construction.
About the Author
Gomm started building stained glass windows professionally back
in 1983 and has become an expert at many aspects of stained glass
building, design and repair. He writes a monthly newsletter at
also has a website with many other articles at www.gommstudios.com