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What’s the Difference Between Stained Glass and Leaded Glass?

What’s the Difference Between Stained Glass and Leaded Glass?

The terms ‘stained glass’ and ‘leaded glass’ are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. Stained glass refers to the process of colouring glass by different methods and leaded glass refers to the process of joining smaller pieces of glass with lead to create a larger piece, usually ornamented with a design or picture. Leaded glass can be coloured (stained) or not.

Origins of stained glass

It’s thought that the first culture to make coloured glasses were the Egyptians or Romans. Possibly both made the earliest examples, but it was the Romans who made use of coloured glass in windows back in the first century AD. In England, one of the oldest examples can be found in Jarrow, England, at St. Paul’s Monastery and is a simple pattern in yellows, blues, greens and reds. It is only 7 inches wide. This is due to the high cost of creating such a window – small or not, it would have been extremely valuable at the time of creation.

The methods of making early stained glass were recorded by a German monk in the 12th century and he wrote a description of how to make stained glass – a sort of early tutorial if you like. The basics have not changed much at all and he described first how glass was made by melting sand, potash and lime together in a clay pot.

This was coloured by then adding metallic oxides. Gold for red, copper for green, cobalt for blue and so on.These coloured pieces were and still are, held together with lead strips called ‘Cames’ to create beautiful ‘mosaic’ patterns and images.

What is leaded glass?

As mentioned, leaded glass is simply glass pieces which are cut to size and shape to create a larger image or pattern and then joined together with lead strips called “Cames”. Leaded glass may be coloured or plain, clear glass. Often used in homes and in churches, the coloured type is popular. It’s also used in the creation of beautiful lampshades and sometimes, vases.

The clear leaded glass is very often seen in more contemporary homes. It’s a great way to add interest and detail to an otherwise plain window. The advantage of clear glass is that light and view is unimpeded by the colours of stained glass. Churches and other places of worship often prefer to use coloured glass as within a place of worship, seeing the view outside is not a concern. Rather, stained glass adds to the mood of contemplation and quiet as there are minimal distractions.

Stained glass and leaded glass are a versatile way of creating beautiful decorative points of interest in any home or place of worship. If you are interested in installing a stained glass window in your home or other location, don’t hesitate to contact us.