A leaded window consists of pieces of glass that are smaller than "regular" windows that are placed together to form patterns. The glass pieces are held in place with strips of lead. Windows such as these can be clear, frosted or stained. Stained glass is glass that either has color painted on the surface of the glass or color impregnated into the glass. Although stained leaded windows can be quite expensive, some leaded window glass is affordable enough to be used in a house.
Many associate leaded windows primarily with stained glass. Churches were the traditional patrons of leaded stained glass windows as at one time, churches were the only organizations that could afford to commission this type of work. Famous stained glass windows in churches include those in the Canterbury Cathedral in London and the Florence Cathedral in Italy. Stained glass windows started to appear in private homes and businesses during the Reformation with the emergence of the mercantile class. Those in the mercantile class had extra money available that could be spent on expensive objects that were previously affordable only to the church and royalty.
Stained glass window production and popularity went into decline beginning in the early 1600s due to wars and religious conflicts. By the 1800s, when stained glass window popularity began to reemerge, many of the skills needed had been lost to time and had to be reinvented. The stained leaded window regained popularity with the emergence of the art nouveau movement in the late 1800s. Famous artists of this time period include Louis Comfort Tiffany, John LaFarge and William Morris.
After World War I, industry became more mechanized. Stained glass windows started to be mass produced, bringing the costs down to more affordable levels. Today, new commissioned leaded stained glass windows continue to be placed in churches. In addition, affordable leaded stained glass windows can also be found in the front doors of many homes. A clear or frosted leaded window is a less expensive option for those who like the look of leaded windows, but do not want colored glass.
Crafters and do-it-yourselfers also work with leaded window glass today. Among the tools that crafters use for leaded stained glass projects are hammers, class cutters, 80-100 watt soldering irons, and hammers. Supplies include glass, 50/50 solder and lead came, or strips of lead. Beginners typically start with smaller projects that involve fewer glass pieces and work their ways up to complex windows.