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How Does Stained Glass Get Its Color?
We would love to say that stained glass is made by <em>magic</em> (duh!), but the truth of how stained glass is made is much less mystical – although still pretty cool.
As we all know, stained glass is used in all kinds of applications, but it is most commonly featured in windows, <a title="Pendants" href="http://www.atgstores.com/pendant-lighting_11302.html" target="_blank">pendants</a>, <a title="Lamps" href="http://www.atgstores.com/table-lamps_95.html" target="_blank">lamps</a> and décor curios. Stained glass has been around for thousands of years and despite seeing peaks and troughs in popularity over the centuries it has never really fallen out of fashion.
<strong>What makes the different colors in stained glass?</strong>
Once again: <em>magic</em>. Please, let it be magic.
Ah well, chemistry will have to do, because the main ingredient in stained glass is … metal. Metals and metal salts give many things their colors when they are heated. In this way, stained glass is kind of like catching the color and beauty of an exploding firework.
Mixing different metals and metal quantities produces an endless rainbow of colors. Chromium and/or iron oxide make various shades of green glass; manganese and nickel are used to make different shades of purple glass; copper and gold are used in varying combinations to make red glass – even uranium can be used, resulting in fluorescent yellow or green glass!
Eh, so maybe it’s a little magical, after all …
<strong>How does the glass become colored?</strong>
This is all done while the glass is in a molten state. Once the glass is heated, metallic oxide powders are added to the glass and the heat causes a chemical reaction that “stains” the glass.
Glassblowers and artisans have found all kinds of ways to stain glass in addition to the types and amounts of metal oxides they add. They can also manipulate the opacity and tone by adding non-metallic compounds and by adjusting the firing temperature and timing.
<strong>How do I know it’s “real” stained glass?</strong>
We’re not just talking about plastic when we refer to fake stained glass; we’re also talking about glass that has been surface stained with a dye or paint. So, how do you tell real vs. fake stained glass?
There’s no getting around the fact that it will be difficult when buying stained glass online unless you’re buying from a reputable retailer like <a title="ATG Stores Home Page" href="http://www.atgstores.com/default.aspx" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a>. If you can’t touch the product (in which case it should be obvious), look closely at the joints: Any points – like Vs – in the work must end in a leaded joint because it is impossible to cut glass in this way.
Unless, of course, it was done by magic …