Beautiful stained glass windows graced the homes of the affluent in mid-1800’s America. Revered as an art form, they stood as a symbol of wealth and prominence well into the 20th Century. But as we moved into the into the post-war years of the late 1940’s these once cherished works of art were labeled as old-fashioned. They were replace by “new” windows and stored away in basements to rot or cast away with the trash.
Fortunately windows, sidelights and transoms, which once met their demise from neglect or destruction, have seen a widespread salvage effort since the last quarter of the 20th century. These pieces are now highly sought by architects, interior designers and private collectors who are incorporating them into both older homes and new construction.
If you are in the market for antique stained glass, know that picking out usable pieces can be a little tricky. While the perfect window is out there, many have defects that may frighten off the novice shopper. So what constitutes an “easy fix” versus a “deal breaker”? Here a a few tips to guide you in the right direction.
With antique stained glass, as with fine antique furniture, there will often be small nicks or scratches that are indicative of a piece that is a hundred years old. These signs of wear are a part of the charm and patina of true antique stained glass and they do not devalue the piece. If you like them, buy them.
Small cracks in the glass Aare also a common malady. I would not walk away from a window I truly loved because of some small cracks. This is a minor repair requiring the application of an epoxy to prevent the crack from spreading and can be done by any reputable stained glass expert.
There are repairs that greatly effect the “as found” value of a window. Have you ever picked up a beautifully framed piece of glass and the panels rattled? Time and exposure to the elements can cause the putty used to secure the glass panes in their cames (lead channels) to dry, causing the glass to loosen. Check for light between the glass and the cames as this is a sure sign they need to be professionally tightened. While this may not be a deal breaker, it should be a consideration when negotiating a purchase price.
Sagging occurs when the glass set into a frame is not even in weight. With large windows, such as those found in churches, old hotels or universities, it is not uncommon for the glass at the top to be thinner than the glass on the bottom, so sagging sometimes occurs. Sagging is repaired by removing the windows from their sash and allowing them to lie flat for several weeks. While loose or sagging windows can often be repaired by a stained glass expert, I would strongly recommend having an estimate done on the work before I invested in the window.
All stained glass needs periodic maintenance. Pieces used free hanging can hold tight for a very long time. However, if you are installing your piece as an actual window in your home, it should be inspected every 3-5 years. Do not trust stained glass repairs to your carpenter or handyman as this type of repair requires someone with training and experience in working with antique glass.
A qualified professional will be able to inspect the three major aspects of your windows: the glass itself, any applied decorative elements and the structural support system. In the Indianapolis area I recommend Camden Stained Glass, 5345 Winthrop Avenue, Indianapolis 46220. Until next time…Linda
Linda Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the valuation of estates and may be reached at 317-258-7835 or email@example.com.