As a child, I loved to visit my Great Aunt’s Victorian home in North Vernon, Ind.
With its corbels, gables and fretwork, it seemed like a magical place to my five-year-old mind. While I loved every inch of it, my favorite part was the beautiful stained glass encased in the windows on the stairway that led to the top floor.
The top floor was off limits to my siblings and I, most likely because it was unsafe or used only for storage. But to me, that stairway with its beautiful red, green and amber glass windows led to a mystical forbidden land which I would one day explore.
I never got to see what was on the third floor of Great Aunt Mary’s home. The house and land were sold in the mid-50s and the new owner demolished the home, windows and all.
Fortunately windows, sidelights and transoms, which once met their demise with the force of the wrecking ball, have seen a wide-spread 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 more than 100-years-old. These signs of wear are a part of the charm and patina of true antiquity and they do not devalue the piece. If you like them, buy them.
Small cracks in the glass are also a common milady. 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 canes 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 stain glass exert, I would strongly recommend having an estimate done on the work before I invested in the window.
All stained glass needs need 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 three to five years.
Do not trust stain glass repairs to your carpenter or handyman, as this type of repair requires someone with training and experience in working with antique glass.
Until next time,
Linda Hamer Kennett is a professional liquidation consultant specializing in down-sizing for seniors and the valuation of estates and may be reached at 317-429-7887 or email@example.com.