What are the most important terms used in decorative glass?

Insider tips from a glass professional

Numerous specialist terms are used in the decorative glass business. Consult this useful glossary for all you need to know about art glass:

Abstract stained glass cornucopia
The beauty of abstract stained glass is expressed with jeweled magnificence by the artists at Artistry in Glass

  • Acid etching – Chemical etching of glass surface with hydrofluoric acid. Also called etching.
  • Annealing – slowly cooling molten glass to avoid “freezing in” stresses.
  • Arris – 45-degree chamfers taking the sharpness off of glass edges.
  • Beveling – production by grinding and polishing of a sloping edge on glass (commonly used on mirrors).
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  • Borosilicate glass – also known as pyrex – made with boron as flux – has a low coefficient of expansion and so can be used for cooking.
  • Bug – Sandblasted logo placed in the corner of a glass lite to prove it is tempered.
  • Came – “H”-shaped strip of lead or less often zinc or brass, used to hold art glass lites together.
  • Cast glass – produced by pouring molten glass into a mold.
  • Clear glass – the commonest type of float glass: it actually has a green tint due to a small content of iron.
  • Copper-wheel engraving

    • Copper-wheel engraving – A technique of decorating glass by grinding with thin copper wheels charged with abrasive grit.

  • Curved glass – also known as bent glass. Flat glass heated and bent into a mold – often used in curio cabinets.
  • Dalles de Verre – colored glass made in slabs about 1 inch thick and often used (held together by epoxy cement) for modern liturgical windows.
  • Insider tip – save money on stained glass

    Save big bucks by purchasing a ready-made panel rather than a custom one. Choose the closest size and hang it in your window – stained glass is “jewelry for the home”.

    Clear stained glass beveled window panel 20″x 34″

    Stained glass window hanging panel – horizontal window 15″ X 26″

  • Diamond-Point Engraving – Decorating glass by scratching or stippling with a diamond-pointed tool.
  • Double Glazing – see IG or insulated glass.
  • Dubbed – Term for a sharp corner that has been sanded slightly.
  • Eased – sanded corner a little more than dubbed.
  • Edgework – the process of finishing flat glass edge by grinding and polishing – see beveling, flat polish.
  • Flameworking – forming object from rods or tubes of glass heated with gas-fueled torches
  • .Flashed glass – a thin layer of colored glass applied to the surface of (generally) clear glass.
  • Flat polish – machine polish 90 degree square polished edge with arrises.
  • Float glass – flat glass process was invented by Pilkington Bros. Molten glass is floated and cooled on a bed of molten tin.
  • Frosting – Matte finished glass surface produced by sandblasting or acid etching. It diffuses light and provides privacy and view-control.
  • Insider tip on leaded glass decanters

    If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant – always use lead-free crystal. See these elegant examples of high-quality lead-free glassware available on Amazon:

    We recommend this hand-blown lead-free crystal carafe from Le Chateau – available on Amazon

    Why take a chance on lead poisoning when beautiful and affordable lead-free decanters are available.

  • Glass Block – glass made into hollow building blocks, 2-3″ thick, used for decorative walls to let in light but obscure the view.
  • Grozing – Breaking away the edge of a sheet of glass with special pliers to form a broken edge.IG Unit – Insulated glass unit normally double but sometimes triple-paned.
  • Laminated glass – two or more sheets of glass with a viscous/plastic layer (polyvinyl butyl) sandwiched in between.
  • Lead glass – with a high percentage (at least 20%) of lead oxide. Has high refractive index – sparkles. Also called lead crystal.
  • Leaded glass – arrangement of pieces of flat glass held together by lead (or sometimes zinc or other metal) channels or cames. Stained glass is the commonest type of leaded glass
  • Lite – Glass-speak for a pane or sheet of glass (as in skylight).
  • Low-E glass – low emissivity glass is used in double or triple-paned
  • units, Has a thin-film metallic coating that allows short-wave solar energy into a building but prevents long-wave energy produced by heating systems and lighting from escaping outside. 

  • Low-iron glass – flat glass made with a low iron content to reduce the green color. Has a pale aquamarine tint in long sections – about double the cost of clear glass, used in museum display cases.
  • Pane – a flat sheet of glass used for glazing windows.
  • Pencil polish – polished edge with a curved profile like a cross-section through a pencil.
  • Plate glass – flat glass made by rolling molten glass on a metal plate then polishing the surface – superseded by “float” glass.
    • Quarry – A small diamond-shaped pane of glass usually in medieval leaded glass windows.

  • Refractive Index – the ratio of the sine of the angle of incidence of a ray of light to the sine of the angle of refraction (the change in direction when a ray of light passes from one medium to another) by the glass. The higher the RI the more sparkle (RI of diamond is 2.42, lead crystal about 1.7, regular glass about 1.5).
  • Custom Art Glass

    Blown glass combined with metal creates spectacular artwork for the home. Consult Artistry in Glass for more information.

  • Safety glass – glass that does not break into dangerous shards – includes tempered and laminated glass.
  • Sandblasting – Removing glass, or frosting glass by bombarding with high-pressure stream of abrasive grit.
  • Seam – To sand off the razor-sharp edge of cut glass – prevents dangerous cuts.
  • Sidelite – vertical panel(s) beside a door – provides light – commonly in entryways.
  • Slumping – reheating glass until it gradually flows under its own weight into a refractory mold.
  • Spandrel – Spandrel is the opaque glass that conceals structural building components such as columns, floors, HVAC systems, vents, electrical wiring, and plumbing.
  • Stained glassdecorative panels made by fitting pieces of colored glass into lead (or other metal) cames.
  • Stops – wooden, metal, vinyl or other molding that holds a window panel in place.
  • Swiggle – Insulating material holding the dual panes together.
  • Transom – horizontal window above a door or window. Common in Victorian homes.
  • Water spots – caused when hard water evaporates and leaves deposits of calcium carbonate on your shower glass.
  • Make sure family members squeegee after showering and/or apply a surface protector. We recommend this one from CR Laurence (available here on Amazon).

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    I was an exploration geologist and University Professor working in Botswana, Zambia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and other countries before opening Artistry in Glass in 1986. In my more than 35 years of experience, I have brought my technical abilities as a scientist to the trade of glasswork. During this time I have become an industry expert in glass and glass-related skills. Watch out for special insider tips developed from my detailed knowledge of the glass business.

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