The Mystery of Glass: Appreciating the history and preserving the beauty of stained glass


“For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world.” – Marc Chagall

Glass is a sparkling, jewel-like substance made from ordinary materials: sand transformed by fire. It captures the light, glows from within and is colored by adding metallic salts and oxides. Minerals within the glass create a spectrum of color by refracting white light into various wavelengths, which our eyes see as different colors. Adding iron oxide, for example, would color the glass a dark brown or green, whereas gold chloride would lend a rich ruby red color to the glass.

Stained Glass Windows

Some of our Design Toscano window panels use the abundant color options available to ourartisans to create exquisite patterned art! Take the Blackstone Hall Tiffany-Style Stained Glass Window (HD463) for example, this nearly yard-tall vertical window boasts rich shades of blue, green, yellow and orange in a beautiful harmony of colors and shapes inspired by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s own designs.

Glass is mixed by hand in small batches, and variation is not only to be expected, it is one of the hallmarks of authentic hand-crafted glass. Folds, ripples and other textures are artistically added using rollers, while “seeds” (small bubbles) are incorporated by introducing water to the molten glass. These details provide each piece of Design Toscano Stained Glass with its own individual flair.

The Cobalt Blue Dragonfly Tiffany-Style Stained Glass Window (TF510021) is one example of a stained glass window that uses multiple textures and styles of glass within one panel. The border is a beautiful periwinkle blue with minimal variation, while the background boasts lots of stunning variation to create a dramatic feel that also highlights the slender red dragonfly bodies and their intricate metal lace wings.

The origins of stained glass windows are hazy, although it is likely that part of the influence came from jewelers using similar glazing methods in their work. By the 10th century, intricately designed windows were found in many English, French and German churches.

Stained glass can still have religious inspiration today, like our Dove of Peace Tiffany-Style Stained Glass Window (TF801). The white dove carrying an olive branch makes a bold focal point against the sky blue background. This spiritual scene creates a wonderful spot for meditation, prayer or quiet contemplation within your home.

Included scroll brackets and chains for hanging
Scroll brackets and chains are included for hanging

Stained glass isn’t just for churches anymore! We also have a variety of windows that are sure to fit with your home’s theme. Have a Tuscan vineyard theme or home wine cellar? Our Grapes on the Vine Tiffany-Style Stained Glass Window (TF773) makes a unique decorative accent!

All of our stained glass windows include scroll brackets and chains for hanging. These chains can be shortened to suit your window.

Stained Glass Lamps

Stained glass isn’t limited to only wall decor either, Design Toscano’s collection includes a variety of unique lamps & light fixtures with stained glass shades. Check out our Ravishing Peacock Petite Tiffany-Style Table Lamp (TF10043) or the Lotus of Monet’s Garden Petite Tiffany-Style Table Lamp (TF10039) inspired by Monet’s famous lotus paintings. The colored glass glows brightly with the addition of your 25-watt candelabra bulb, so you don’t have to wait for a sunny day to enjoy the beauty!

For extra impact, our Le Flesselles Hot Air Balloon Illuminated Stained Glass Statue (TF10025) doubles as art and ambient lighting as the turn-of-the-century style hot air balloon glows warmly from your 60-watt bulb.

Caring for Stained Glass

So, once you’ve found the perfect piece of stained glass for your home, how do you maintain it? When you receive your Design Toscano stained glass work of art, it will arrive with a thin coating of mineral oil. You can gently wipe off the excess with a soft cloth. The oil is applied to give the glass a scratch-resistant shine and protect it for the long distance journey to your home.

Today, some stained glass is painted to give it extra details such as the faces on our Lion Coat of Arms Stained Glass Window (TF81). If you are not sure if your glass piece is painted or not, never use anything stronger than water to clean it. A little care will keep your investment beautiful for many years to come, but you don’t want to wash the color off!

Even if your stained glass isn’t painted, your first attempt at cleaning should always be with water alone. If this doesn’t work, try using a non-ionic detergent. If a stronger solution still isn’t removing deposits or if you wish to remove shellac, varnish or stain, un-painted stained glass can be safely cleaned with acetone, ethanol, isopropyl alcohol or mineral spirits. After cleaning, be sure to remove all chemical residue with a non-ionic detergent and thoroughly rinse the piece with clean water.

Visit Design Toscano to see our whole line of authentic stained glass.

Learn more about stained glass construction and care on our infographic here.