Part 1 A Beginning
"Stained glass" can mean colored, painted or enameled glass, or glass tinted with true glass "stains." In this Brief the term refers to both colored and painted glass. "Leaded glass" refers generically to all glass assemblies held in place by lead, copper, or zinc cames. Because the construction, protection, and repair techniques of leaded glass units are similar, whether the glass itself is colored or clear, "stained glass" and "leaded glass" are used interchangeably throughout the text.
Glass is a highly versatile medium. In its molten state, it can be spun, blown, rolled, cast in any shape, and given any color. Once cooled, it can be polished, beveled, chipped, etched, engraved, or painted. Of all the decorative effects possible with glass, however, none is more impressive than "stained glass." Since the days of ancient Rome, stained glass in windows and other building elements has shaped and colored light in infinite ways.
Stained and leaded glass can be found throughout America in a dazzling variety of colors, patterns, and textures It appears in windows, doors, ceilings, fanlights, sidelights, light fixtures, and other glazed features found in historic buildings . It appears in all building types and architectural styles-embellishing the light in a great cathedral, or adding a touch of decoration to the smallest row house or bungalow. A number of notable churches, large mansions, civic buildings, and other prominent buildings boast windows or ceilings by LaFarge, Tiffany, Connick, or one of many other, lesser-known, American masters, but stained or leaded glass also appears as a prominent feature in great numbers of houses built between the Civil War and the Great Depression.
This Brief gives a short history of stained and leaded glass in America. It also surveys basic preservation and documentation issues facing owners of buildings with leaded glass. It addresses common causes of deterioration and presents repair, restoration, and protection options. It does not offer detailed advice on specific work treatments. Glass is one of the most durable, yet fragile building materials. While stained glass windows can last for centuries, as the great cathedrals of Europe attest, they can be instantly destroyed by vandals or by careless workmen. Extreme care must therefore be exercised, even in the most minor work. For this reason, virtually all repair or restoration work undertaken on stained and
leaded glass must be done by professionals, whether the feature is a magnificent stained glass window or a clear, leaded glass storefront transom. Before undertaking any repair work, building owners or project managers should screen studios carefully, check references, inspect other projects, and require duplicate documentation of any work so that full records can be maintained. Consultants should be employed on major projects.