Color, Light, and History: Antique Stained Glass Windows

Various themes have been created in stained glass since before 1065 AD, through the Victorian era, and into the modern day, from religious murals to decorative flowers. For homeowners with classical tastes, the presence of stained glass windows in a structure speaks to its history and refinement, and the addition of an original can add the character and class their abode was missing.

How Is Stained Glass Made?

When you select your window, remember that antique pieces are often at least 50 years between their birth in the bellows and their eventual appearance in a home. The creation of stained glass uses hand-blown and rolling techniques. Artists use several different techniques in making hand-blown glass including cylinder, muff, and crown. Cylinder glass is created by the artist blowing stained glass into a cylinder iron mold and placing it in a high-temperature oven. It unfolds into a flat sheet when hot. Muff stained glass is created by blowing a long bubble of stained glass that is then baked in the oven until it becomes a flat sheet. Glassblowers blow stained glass into a hollow globe before the globe before spinning it out of the mold into a flat piece of stained glass in the hot oven.There are two common methods used to create rolled glass. The artist either heats the stained glass in the oven before rolling it through a wringer or they roll the hot stained glass with a special tool that looks like a large rolling pin.

How Are Different Colors of Antique Stained Glass Made?

There are many different colors of antique stained glass. They all start out as soda-lime glass with artists adding ingredients to color the panels, including:

  • Cobalt or nickel to make blue
  • Chromium to make green
  • Metallic gold, metallic copper, or Selenium to make various shades of red
  • Copper oxide to make turquoise
  • Silver nitrate, carbon, titanium, cadmium and uranium to make various shades of yellow
  • Manganese to make amethyst
  • Tin dioxide with antimony and arsenic oxide to make white
  • Manganese dioxide or Selenium is added to make it translucent

Who Are Some Modern Stained Glass Artists?

There are many people who worked in the 20th and 21st century creating stained glass works of art, including:

  • Gerhard Richter- Gerhard Richter is a photorealist artist who created stained glass windows using computer-generated ideas.
  • Judy Chicago- Founder of the feminist art movement, Judy Chicago has worked in a variety of media including stained glass.
  • Nicolas D' Ascenzo- This Italian-born artist has created many historical works along the east coast including Washington D.C. and Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
  • William Willet- Founder of Willet Hauser Architectural Glass, William Willet created the first stained glass windows in America.
  • Charles J. Connick- Founder of the Connick Gallery, Charles Connick reimagined Medieval stained glass during the Arts and Crafts movement.
  • Harvey Littleton- Educator Harvey Littleton instrumental in creating formal education for stained glass artists through the Toledo Museum of Art along with creating cold-working techniques of window glass.

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