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Volume 6   Issue 5                June 2005

The Latest Trends in Decorative Glass for Window Manufacturers 
by Rocky Blauser

Based on remains found at Pompeii, stained glass was first used by wealthy Romans in their villas and palaces in the first century A.D. The earliest surviving example of pictorial stained glass is a Head of Christ from the tenth century excavated from Lorsch Abbey in Germany.

With the advent of Gothic architecture, stained glass flourished as the expansion of immense window spaces in Gothic cathedrals demanded a new approach to the medium. Red and blue remained the predominant color choice and a wide variety of geometrical shapes emerged.

Beginning in the 16th century, political upheavals and religious unrest jeopardized the survival of stained glass. For approximately two hundred years, stained glass fell out of favor after massive destruction of ornate churches during the religious Reformation. Stained glass did not again receive critical attention until its revival in the nineteenth century. The Victorian era saw a revival of stained glass, not only in religious edifices, but in fine homes. Louis Comfort Tiffany and Frank Lloyd Wright were leaders in the early 20th Century revival that continues today.

From Artisans to Mass Producers
Today, when most people refer to stained glass, they might more properly refer to it as art glass or decorative glass. Just as manipulating light and color has fascinated glass artisans for centuries, today light passing through a colored or textured piece of glass still attracts thousands of studio craftspeople who continue to practice their artistry through custom commissions. At the same time, a new generation of factory-processed
-and-assembled decorative glass (and alternative materials) is finding its way into windows and doors. Some is assembled by window and door manufacturers who make their own insulating glass (IG). The rest is made by specialty IG glass fabricators who see a future in supplying their customers, who are manufacturers, with high-performance decorative glass units.

Types of Decorative Glass
Beveled glass is a clear, raised glass, like the raised panels of a door. The edges are angled, which alters the reflection of the light. Several beveled pieces can be joined with brass or lead caming to create patterns.

V-grooved glass is just the opposite. Grooves are computer-cut into the glass and, if left unpolished, have a frosted appearance. 

Beveled, frosted or patterned glass can be combined using brass caming for a more elaborate design. Both frosted and patterned glass provides privacy while allowing light to filter through.

Etched glass designs are created by applying acid to the glass surface. The resulting patterns range from simple to very elaborate. Sandblasted glass is similar to etching with more depth and texture. 

Textured glass is a popular choice for windows or doorways that need to provide a visual block. Generally smooth on one side and textured on the other, the more pattern pressed into the glass the more difficult it is to see through.

Silk-screened glass is used to apply decorative designs to all types of architectural glass. This printed glass can be laminated to increase functional and performance values. 

Art glass artisans and manufacturers have an ever-expanding pallet of colors available including opalescent, transparent, pastels, iridescent, dichroic and glass frit. Bright, intense colors will add warmth to north-facing rooms that get little or no sunlight. A near equally wide assortment of textured glass adds another element of relief and character.

Window and door manufacturers, as well as specialty IG fabricators, will typically combine two or more types of art glass in the fabrication of solid panel, decorative, insulated windows and doors.

Typical Applications
Traditional full-panel triple-glazed art glass is most frequently used in doorlites and transoms for production door entryway systems. Most are in standard sizes and imported by foreign-owned companies with links to Mexico, China and other Pacific Rim countries.

Features include leaded zinc or brass came. Caming choices include zinc, brass, patina and nickel. Clear bevels are enhanced by various types of clear, colored textured art glass, soldered together. 

Triple-glazed IG systems sandwich the solid art glass panel between two panels of tempered glass, using non-metal or metal spacer. A plastic paintable or stainable frame is included for door or sidelite inserts which are sold to door manufacturers for $20-$400 per unit, depending on size and glass type.

Decorative Glass in Triple-Glazed Windows
Decorative glass windows are a much smaller market than entryways, but today offer many options for window and door makers, in both variety and manufacturing techniques. 

It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th Century, that the romantic notion of stained glass began to appeal to home buyers and became an integral part of many new houses. Today home builders are discovering that accents of art glass on the front elevation can add important curb value and aesthetic appeal. Studies have shown that decorative glass adds up to 6 percent to the perceived value of a typical home.

Some are using decorative ovals, round tops, ellipses, half-rounds, circles, trapezoids, octagons and other shapes. Operating art glass windows are also available. Others use subtle diamonds or other elements, sparingly, in the corners of the glass. Triple-glazed IG art glass for windows is available from specialty fabricators. These triple-glazed art glass panels, assembled by hand are available to window manufacturers for $35-$100 per square foot. 

Some Alternatives 
Our company is now in its seventh year of providing widow and door manufacturers an alternative to labor-intensive solid-panel art glass. Called Fashion Glass, the DGI system suspends a lightweight grid made of gold pewter and bronze tone aluminum pencil bar, with accents of real beveled art glass, inside any typical IG system. 

“Fashion Glass is fabricator-friendly, blends with modern insulating glass options and provides flexible price points for various markets,” says Jeff Menhart, president of DGI. “Our system takes 40 percent of the weight and 30 percent of the cost out of a typical third-panel art glass window. It works with all popular spacers and now, Sashlite. Yet it provides end-users all the comfort and energy savings benefits of insulating glass.”

Other industry suppliers offer products for decorative glass. For example, Glasslam NGI offers a variety of applied resin-based products for security and decorative applications. 

3M Company manufactures Accentrim, an applied tape product with the appearance and refraction characteristics of beveled or V-groove glass. Accentrim is said to be a “quicker and cleaner” process than machine beveling or grooving. 

There are a variety of options available for window manufacturers in the area of decorative glass. 

Rocky Blauser is general manager of Designer Glass International in Columbus, Ohio.

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