What is a Stained Glass Mosaic?

Jeri Sullivan
Jeri Sullivan
Stained glass tools may include foil tape.
Stained glass tools may include foil tape.

A stained glass mosaic is a piece of artwork made with glass pieces. The artwork is normally made by hand and can range from very small one color pieces to huge multi-colored works 20 feet (6 m) tall. The most common place a stained glass mosaic is seen is in churches where they are used as decorative windows but they may also be used in furniture, accessories, and homes.

To create a stained glass mosaic, the artist must first sort the glass pieces by shape, color, and size. Though each piece may be slightly different, keeping them sorted by stained glass type helps the artist create a cohesive design. Once the decorative glass has been sorted, the artist draws a template of the art glass design.

There are three main assembly methods for a stained glass mosaic. The traditional method is called leaded glass mosaics. This method requires lead strips, called cames, to be shaped into an outline of the design. The glass pieces are then fit into the space between the lead cames and at each intersection of lead cames the artist must heat the lead and solder the joints together. This is often used for large windows due to the thickness provided by the lead.

Another assembly method for a stained glass mosaic involves using copper foil tape. A thin strip of copper foil is wrapped around each glass piece and the piece is then soldered to the next piece by heating the copper foil. This method is known as the Tiffany method because it is used extensively by the Tiffany company to manufacture lamps. The Tiffany method is preferred by artists working on three-dimensional designs since the copper foil is lighter than lead and easier to mold.

The third stained glass mosaic assembly method is to use silicone or cement. Instead of soldering the glass pieces together using lead or copper, the artist pours a mold then places the glass pieces into the mold while the material is still wet. Once it dries, the artist pops the piece out of the mold and lightly cleans the surface to expose the glass design. This method is most commonly used by crafters to create stained glass mosaic stepping stones and is also used by artists to create stained glass table tops, mirrors, and picture frames. The main drawback to this method is you cannot see through the design, so it should not be used for windows.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - The problem for me with this kind of stained glass art is that, while beautiful, if it is put into steps the sun can never shine through and show the true beauty of the glass. I particularly like sea glass mixed with normal glass, because of the different contrasts of those textures, but that's more difficult to see if there is no light involved.

If I was going to try and make something from local sea glass it would be with the soldering method, so that it could be hung up in the light. It would probably be more lumpy than the average stained glass mosaic, but I think that could make it more interesting as well.

And you would be able to create a meaningful piece with much less glass than you'd need to cover an entire set of steps.


@Iluviaporos - Actually if you want to make a sea glass mosaic it's not too difficult to get the glass these days, although it might not be authentic sea glass. There are plenty of places online that sell it, in any color you might want.

If you want glass that was actually worn by the sea though, you might have to go onto one of the auction sites and hope that the seller isn't passing off glass she wore down at home onto you.

On the other hand, it sounds like what you enjoy is the idea of connection and the spiritual aspects of a mosaic like that.

If that's true, using glass you've collected from your local beach will be much more meaningful than using glass you bought, even if it is real sea glass, collected by someone else.

I would either ask friends and family to help with the collection, or I would just be patient and keep my eyes open whenever I went walking.


I've always thought stained glass mosaics are absolutely beautiful. My favorite one is one that's been built into a small set of stairs near the beach in my home town.

Someone collected a bunch of sea glass in different colors and made a series of swirls that look like one pattern when you are a certain distance from the steps.

It's really unique and also a nice way of using found materials. It links the town with the beach in a kind of symbolic way that I like as well.

I've always wanted to do something similar with a set of stairs I've got in my own garden, but I'm not sure what pattern to use. I would also have to spend a long time looking for sea glass, which isn't common in all the colors. It can be easy to find green and brown and clear, but blue or red is much more unusual.

I suppose I could just keep my eyes out for it and do it over time.

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    • Stained glass tools may include foil tape.
      By: Skibek
      Stained glass tools may include foil tape.