Difference Between Stained Glass and Leaded Glass

Learn the key factor that distinguishs one from the other.

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Some people use the terms “leaded glass” and “stained glass” interchangeably. Technically, all stained glass is leaded glass. However, not all leaded glass is stained glass. For a leaded glass window to be considered stained glass, it must include colored panels. 

What Is Leaded Glass?

Leaded glass is a decorative window that uses lead came to fuse pieces of glass. The glass comes in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Any window that uses lead came, whether colored or not, is considered leaded glass. However, some experts will use this term to describe clear glass windows only. Homebuilders used colorless leaded glass in entry-level old homes since it was less expensive than stained glass.

What Is Stained Glass?

Stained glass is a leaded glass style that uses colored pieces of glass to create a design. Only a few of the panels need to have color for the window to be considered stained. You’ll find stained glass in more prominent old houses and churches since the colored glass was more expensive to source.

Here is a visual representation of the difference between stained and leaded glass:

stained glass window

Stained Glass Window
Colored glass with lead cames

Leaded Glass Window
Clear glass with lead cames

A Little History

All leaded glass styles were popular from the late 19th century through the early 1930s. Most homeowners have maintained or repaired complex stained glass designs in larger, more ornate old homes. Unfortunately, people ripped out many of the clear leaded glass windows that flanked fireplaces or sat above sash windows in favor of vinyl replacements over the years.

Additional Resources

If you’re shopping for a clear glass privacy window, use leaded glass. However, if you know you want to incorporate color, use the term stained glass to limit your options to windows that have colored glass. Finally, if you’re unsure what type of window you want, use the term leaded glass to include both styles.

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