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Old Stained Glass Versus New Stained Glass

I am often asked if old vintage stained glass is better than new vintage looking stained glass. Is it more valuable? Here are a few thoughts on that subject.

Unless an old window is from a documented studio like Tiffany or LaFage, it is not necessarily more valuable. Back in the 1970's there wasn't a lot of variety in sheet glass to make neat new windows. We were very limited by what we could produce. Today, I could pretty much duplicate a Tiffany, the benchmark by which all windows are measured, if a customer wanted to go to the expense.

Most old windows have opalescent glass in them. That's the glass that is somewhat opaque, as opposed to catherdral glass, which is more translucent. Opalescent glass wasn't even invented until the late 1880's, and took many years to perfect. The early glass was very brittle and often cracked very easily. Glass makers were experimenting, and such, it was difficult to duplicate the same glass you many have made a few weeks earlier. The lead on old windows often oxidizes, the solder joints can crack, the wood frames can rot, and the putty which was worked in between the lead and glass to strengthen and waterproof the windows, often cracks and falls out. Antique dealers will tell you that "they just don't make them like that anymore", and insist they are worth their price. The fact of the matter is, most of the old sheet glass that was used to make the windows is available. In fact, two of the glass manufacturers that were around at the turn of the century are still making glass today.

A number of years ago, I made a large window, approximately 5'x5' and used it as a display piece when I would do shows. I sold it to some guy, who wound up selling it to an architectural antique place in Chicago. A well know collector who's been collecting windows for over 30 years, and his curator bought the window and had it displayed in a stained glass museum, thinking the window was old. Which brings up a good point. I love things that are old. I live in a house built in 1917, have a 46 year old sports car, collect wristwatches from the 40's and beacon camp blankets from the 30's-40's. I enjoy old stained glass windows, own a few myself, but don't pay a premium for a window, just because you think it might be old, and more valuable.

At least 60-70% of the so called "old windows" I see at these shows, are really new. It's very easy to make a new window and stick it in an old window frame. Go on Ebay and look at the "antique stained glass window section". Most of the windows are from China. They look good in pictures, but when seen in person, are very poorly made, and structurally not very sound. As the saying goes, "something is worth, what someone else is willing to pay for it".

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