Jewel Setting in Window Glazing

Jewel Setting in Window Glazing

The inspiration that came from the early work of jewellers' and jewel setting in window glazing.

Craftsman Style

One more source, at least, there was at which the early glazier drew inspiration, namely, the art of jewel setting. Coloured glass, as was said a while ago, was itself probably first made only in imitation of precious stones, and, being made in small pieces, it had to be set somewhat in the manner of jewellery. In all probability the enameller himself wrought at first only in imitation of jewellery, and afterwards in emulation with it.

Just as white glass was called crystal, and no doubt passed for it, so coloured glass actually went by the name of ruby, sapphire, emerald, and so on. It is recorded even (falsely, of course) how sapphires were ground to powder and mixed with glass to give it its deep blue colour; indeed, this wilful confusion of terms goes far to explain the mystery of the monster jewels of which we read in history or the fable which not so very long ago passed for it. Stories of diamond thrones and emerald tables seem to lead straight into fairyland; but the glass-worker explains such fancies, and brings us back again to reality.

Bearing in mind, then, the preciousness of glass, and the well-kept secrecy with regard to its composition, it is not beyond the bounds of supposition that the glazier of the dark ages not only intended deliberately to imitate jewellery, but meant that his glass should pass with the ignorant (we forget how very ignorant the masses were) for veritably precious stones.

Even though we exempt glaziers from all charge of trickery, it was inevitable that they should attempt to rival the work of the jeweller, and to do in large what he had done only in small. That certainly they did, and with such success that, even when it comes to glass of the twelfth, and, indeed, of the thirteenth century, when already pictorial considerations begin to enter the mind of the artist, the resemblance is unmistakable.

Arab Glazing in Pilaster
Arab Glazing in Pilaster.

Try to describe the effect of an early mosaic window, and you are compelled to liken it to jewellery. Jewelled is the only term which expresses it. And the earlier it is the more jewel-like it is in effect.

So long as the workman looked upon his glass as a species of jewellery, it followed, as a matter of course, from the very estimation in which he held his material, that he did not think of obscuring it by paint defiling it, as he would have held. It is not so much that he would have been ashamed to depend on the painter to put his colour right, as that the thought of such a thing never entered his mind; he was a glazier. It was the painter first thought of that, and his time had not yet come.

Possibly it may have occurred to the reader, apropos of the diagram in Making Mosaic Windows, in which it was shown how far the glazier could go towards the production of a map in glass, that that was not far. Certainly he does not go very far towards making a chart of any geographical value, but he does go a long way towards making a window; for the first and foremost qualities in coloured glass are colour and translucency and for translucent colour the glazier, after the glass-maker, is alone responsible. It is in some respects very much to be deplored that the Gothic craftsman so early took to the use of supplementary painting, which in the end diverted his attention from a possible development of his craft in a direction not only natural to it but big with possibilities never to this day realised.

Of richly jewelled Gothic glass all innocent of paint, no single window remains to us; but there are fairly numerous examples extant of pattern windows glazed in white glass, whether in obedience to the Cistercian rule which forbade colour, or with a view to letting light into the churches, and it is to churches, prevalent as domestic glass may once have been, we must now go for our Gothic windows.

Some of this white pattern work is ascribed to a period almost as early as that of any glass we know ; but it is almost impossible to speak positively as to the date of anything so extremely simple in its execution; in which there is no technique of painting to tell tales; and which, when once "storied" windows came into fashion, was probably left to the tender mercies of lesser craftsmen, who may not have disdained to save themselves the trouble of design, and to repeat the old, old patterns.

This is Jewel Setting in Window Glazing. is Copyright © 2005-12 by International Styles