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Toughened Glass Splashbacks: Light and Glass in Perfect Harmony

A stained glass window with light pouring through

From stained glass windows to the kitchen splashback.

Glass has held a fascination for so many people over the centuries. No other material allows such a wide variety of products to be made that actually appear to change depending on the intensity of the light that shines upon it.

Even the light itself can differ. It can be direct sunlight, dappled sunlight through woodland or diffused sunlight through a morning mist. When these different amounts of light fall upon glass, something almost magical happens. Today of course we can all have this magic in our own homes by having a glass splashback with some strategically placed spotlights to bring out the true beauty of the glass.

The glass Splashbacks of Distinction use is a superior quality toughened glass. The sky really is the limit when it comes to choosing the finish you want too. You may simply want the understated clean lines of a clear, smoooth glass splashback to give your kitchen or bathroom a modern, clean and crisp feel, or you may want to opt for a textured, coloured or patterned finish to the glass. The texture and coloured glass looks particularly stunning when different types of lights are shone on the surface. Some of our splashbacks have a high resolution image set in the glass and these often benefit from a less directional or diffused lighting source to bring out the true beauty of the image.

So when did our fascination with glass and light begin?

Probably the earliest evidence of humans making use of glass was the archeological discovery of flaked obsidian tools and arrow heads dating from more than 200,000 years ago. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive igneous rock.

It is produced when felsic lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. Obsidian is commonly found within the margins of rhyolitic lava flows known as obsidian flows, where the chemical composition of a high silica content induces a high viscosity and polymerization degree of the lava. The inhibition of atomic diffusion through this highly viscous and polymerized lava explains the lack of crystal growth. Obsidian is hard and brittle; it therefore fractures with very sharp edges, which had been used in the past in cutting and piercing tools, and has been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.

The earliest known manufacturers of glass were the Mesopotamians who lived during the early part of the third millennium BC. Early glass discoveries were beads that were formed around a metal wire. They were blue and green which would indicate that the earliest glass was used to replace or imitate actual precious stones like diamonds, sapphires and the like.

Sheets of glass have been used in architecture since Roman times. There is written evidence from the fifth century stating that coloured glass in windows was used to some extent. Around AD 1000 Europe became less troubled by wars and church building and stained glass production began to flourish. Because these churches were so huge, with walls and pillars to bear their weight, only very small stained glass windows were possible.

At the time of the 12th century, the pointed arch and flying buttresses of the more Gothic style church buildings were allowing much larger windows that became known as walls of light. The intention of these massive stained glass windows was to fill the church interior with the perfect light of God.

During the course of a day a stained glass window becomes animated by the changing light. As the sun moved through its daily cycle, it causes the stained glass windows pattern to wander across the floor of the church. The aim of these colourful glass windows was to illuminate the building and the worshippers within, in both a literal and spiritual sense. These stained glass windows often told a story, or a series of stories from the biblical teachings and some were incredibly intricate.

The history of stained glass windows date back to the middle ages and many examples of original glass works remain today. Even some modern churches still insist that stained glass windows be fitted.

A little about glass itself!

Glass is a rather strange and unique substance when you compare it to other materials. The state of glass is somewhere between solid and a liquid. In general, when a liquid is cooled there is a temperature at which it will freeze or become a crystalline solid, a bit like when water turns into ice at 0 degree C. Most solid inorganic materials are crystalline and are made up of literally millions of crystals, each having an atomic structure which is in a very ordered state, with atomic units in a sort of mosaic pattern throughout. The shape of these units can be observed in the shape of single crystals.

Glass is different to the above description. Glass is not crystalline but made up of a continuous network of atoms that are not ordered but irregular and liquid like. This difference in atomic structure occurs because the liquid glass is cooled so quickly that the atoms do not have time to arrange themselves into regular, crystal like patterns.

Technically, any liquid could form glass if it was cooled fast enough, even water. To achieve this though, the liquid must be cooled incredibly quickly.

Liquids composed primarily of silicon oxide can be cooled slowly and still form a glass. They get gradually stiffer during cooling until they reach the glass transition temperature below which they are effectively solid.

This transparent silicate material is what we now know as glass, and despite its liquid atomic structure it is effectively solid. In theory the glass could still flow, but only over billions of years, which is far too slow to be noticed in the hundreds of years that some stained glass windows have been in place. Churches stained glass windows are sometimes thicker in one place than another because forming glass into perfectly flat sheets is a difficult process that has only been possible in the last six decades or so. There is a myth that the thickness in stained glass windows is always at the bottom and that this is due to the glass flowing over time.

Because glass has this liquid type of structure, it is more likely to adopt a see through look. Having said that, not all glass is transparent and some does not allow light to shine through. Consider obsidian glass that is so darkly coloured that they are black and opaque. This is because electrons of some elements in the obsidian are arranged in such a way that their energy is the same as the energy of visible light. This means they absorb either some visible light, giving colour, or all visible light, making the material opaque. Clear glass does not contain elements that absorb visible light so it is colourless and transparent. It should be noterd that clear glass does absorb ultraviolet light and this is why you don't get sunburned through your car window.

Stained glass windows to make the most of the available light

Stained glass windows have been very popular for so many years as they are able to absorb light and reflect that light and colour. During the manufacturing process of the glass, cobalt oxide is added to the glass during melting to make it blue, this is because cobalt absorbs wavelengths at the red end of the spectrum but does not absorb blue.

A lot of the colours we use today to colour the stained glass and colour our glass splashbacks were discovered by ancient civilisations probably by accident. They would add different minerals to the glass melting pot and also melt the glass for different periods of time, giving an ever increasing range of colours. Copper bearing minerals can produce a red or sky blue coloured glass, manganese gives glass a pink or purple hue, and iron offers various greens or even a bright yellow glass. Some of these minerals probably ended up being added to the glass mix as impurities in the sand, giving faint colours such as green and purple that can often be seen in clear church glass windows.

Proper stained glass uses three different processes to achieve the end result: colouring, staining and painting, each one complex and requiring particular skills. The glaziers who made the stained glass windows did not actually make the glass themselves, this was done by other specialist craftsmen. It was hot and dangerous work that required a lot of skill and knowledge. The glass makers knew and were careful not to share the glass recipes and furnace conditions needed to make all the different colours. They would mix the raw materials in clay pots heated with wood fires and then work with the resulting viscous liquid with metal and wooden tools.

The glass makers would supply sheets of coloured glasse to the glaziers to create their beautiful stained glass windows. The process of making a stained glass window began with a sketch, known in medieval times as the vidimus, which is Latin for "we have seen". The vidimus was then drawn to full scale size on a whitened table top. The panes of coloured glass would then be cut to shape, placed on the full scale template, and joined with fine strips of lead.

The use of lead is thought to have started during the middle ages. It was the best material to join the pieces of stained glass because it was very flexible but strong and durable enough to support a large mosaic of glass against all manner of weather and temperatures. The panels would be made weatherproof by rubbing a mixture of lime, lead and linseed oil into the joints, a sort of early putty. The panels could then be mounted in the window space of the church.

Intricate patterns of different coloured glasses could be produced to amazing effect. Stories were often told and human images were needed. This meant that very fine details were required to make the eyes and hands look real. These were added to the surface of the coloured glass sheets using a black enamel pigment based on copper or iron oxide. This mixture was painted onto the glass with different thickness and textures to give different shading effects, allowing control of light and providing a very artistic detail. After painting, the pieces were gently fired to fuse the paint to the surface of the stained glass.

The variety of colours and effects that ancient glaziers could achieve with these simple facilities was incredible, but in the mid 16th century different coloured enamels began to be used. Like glazes for pottery, these used either ground-up coloured glass or clear glass with a metallic oxide in a binder, which was painted onto the glass then fired. Methods such as these continued to be used in the 17th to early 19th centuries as they allowed windows to be painted like easel pictures on clear rectangular glass. This reduced lead usage with the metal often being used merely to hold the large panes together, the designers aim being to conceal the lead rather than integrate it.

Splashbacks of Distinction certainly don't make stained glass windows, but we do understand glass, clour and how different lights work to bring out the best in the glass. So why not get in touch for a free, no obligation quote.


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The RAL colour system

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Glass wall coverings

Glass splashbacks are the product that Splashbacks of Distinction know all about. We have transformed so many homes with our glass splashbacks and seem to get most of our new customers from referrals. All too often we see that people have bought one of the 'off the shelf' glass splashbacks and have never been happy with the quality or fit, that's where we come in.

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Glass splashbacks: The best choice by far

Every so often we all need to think about a spot of decorating around the house. It may be that all that's required is a lick of paint, a sheet or two of new wallpaper or a new floor covering. On the other hand it may be the long overdue task of replacing a kitchen, bathroom or totally revamping your living space. But where do you start?

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Further Information

If you would like to know more or are interested in a quote we would be happy to help. Phone us on 01920 830 084, email us at enquiries@splashbacksofdistinction.co.uk or fill in our enquiry form and we will be in touch as soon as possible.

Office: Unit 11, Bromhall Farm, Watton At Stone, Hertford SG14 2RN

t: 01920 830 084

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