All stained glass art is not created equally, and as with most things, it’s a buyer beware situation when buying stained glass pieces. Here I will give you some things to look for to ensure the stained glass piece you are considering is a good one.
1. This may seem obvious, but be sure it is actually made of GLASS! There are a lot of inexpensive pieces advertised as stained glass that are actually colored acrylic (plastic), and/or painted glass or acrylic. While these can add a nice pop of color to your space, they will not reflect light and glow or sparkle in the same way that real stained glass will.
2. Be sure the solder lines are relatively uniform. Solder lines that have varying widths, globbing, or a mixture of flat and rounds spots can indicate poor workmanship. Either the foil is applied unevenly, there are large gaps between the glass pieces, and/or the soldering was done haphazardly.
3. Be sure none of the soldered edges or lead came are pulling away from the glass. I’ve seen many stained glass pieces in gift shops where this is happening, and it means that the foil is not bonding to the glass properly or the lead came was fitted improperly and it will continue to separate until the piece falls apart.
4. If it is a square or rectangular panel, look carefully to see how in square it is (all corners form right angles). There is nothing more annoying than hanging up a panel and then realizing it is crooked. It’s not unusual or bad for there to be slight variances (less than 1/8"), as it’s hard to achieve perfection in anything handmade, but larger variances will be very noticeable when hung or installed.
5. One thing that is NOT an indication of bad stained glass is seeing striations, bubbles, small divots, and other imperfections in the glass itself. These are actually indications that it IS real stained glass, as these types of anomalies are characteristic of most true stained glass that is manufactured today.
I hope this helps you make an educated decision on your next stained glass purchase! Feel free to contact me with any other questions you may have.