Colors In Stained Glass: Causes & Meaning

There is a big story behind every stained glass window waiting to be discovered.

The process of making glass in different colors is already super interesting. But did you know that every color in a religious stained glass window stands for something different?!

That’s right. Not only does the entire glass window tell you a story. Every single piece of colored glass tells you a store!

So let’s get into the interesting world of stained glass.

colors in stained glass windows

What is used to color glass?

Colored glass is made by adding a small amount of minerals to the molten glass. The final color depends on the mineral used. Metal oxides are the most commonly used mineral, but other minerals such as metal sulfides, metal chlorides, or metallic compounds can also be used.

Below you can find a list of metals and which colors they can form when mixed with the molten glass:

MineralColor of glass
Antimony oxideWhite
Cadmium sulfideYellow
Carbon oxideAmber – brown
Chromic oxideEmerald green
Cobalt oxideBlue-violet
Copper compoundsBlue, Green, Red
Gold chlorideRed
Iron oxideGreen, brown
Lead compoundsYellow
Manganese dioxidePurple
Nickel oxideViolet
Selenium oxideRed
SulfurYellow-amber
Tin compoundsWhite
Uranium oxideYellow, green

As you can see, the same mineral can sometimes result in several different colors or can create a whole range of colors. In this case, the concentration will determine the final color.

Also, for some colors, you can use several different minerals. But the vibrancy and resistance to fading can vary among the minerals.

What are the different colors of glass?

The following colors of glass can be made by the addition of minerals: yellow, red, blue, purple, violet, green, brown, and white.

However, you might sometimes still see colors in stained glass windows that are not on the list. In those cases, glass paint is used on top of the glass, rather than coloring the glass itself.

What is the most expensive color of stained glass?

The most expensive color of stained glass is red. This is because high-quality red glass is made by using gold. Although several other cheaper metals can be used to create red glass, these normally fade or darken over time.

Only red stained glass made from gold retains its vibrant color over the years. And since gold is way more expensive than other metals such as cobalt or nickel, red is the most expensive and rarest color of stained glass.

What do the colors in stained glass mean?

Stained glass is sometimes also referred to as the poor man’s bible because each stained glass window tells a story from the bible. That’s why almost every Catholic church has stained glass.

But not it’s not just the overall stained glass window that tells a story. Each color used in religious stained glass windows has its own meaning.

So let’s go over all the colors and their meanings:

  • Red: is normally used to represent the blood of Jesus Christ. But can also be used for strong emotions such as hate or love.
  • Blue: is often associated with the Virgin Mary and symbolizes sincerity, piety, and hope. It can also be used to refer to the sky or heaven.
  • Yellow: is commonly found in the halo around saints and the gates of heaven. In these cases, it stands for divinity, power, or glory. However, yellow can also be found in depictions of Judas, in which case it stands for treachery.
  • Green: stands for growth, rebirth and life as can be seen in nature all around us.
  • White: is used to symbolize innocence, purity, and chastity, which can be found in God or Jesus.
  • Gray: can represent several things such as immortality, morning or humility.
  • Black: is used to depict death and regeneration, and is therefore seldom seen in stained glass windows.
  • Purple: symbolized suffering and endurance since Christ was thought to wear purple during his crucifixion. It is also sometimes used to depict royalty or God.
  • Violet: can stand for various things such as love, truth, passion, and suffering. Often the difference between violet and purple is difficult to determine.
  • Brown: stands for spiritual death and renunciation of worldly things and pleasures.
  • Rainbow: is used to represent the union and God’s covenant with humanty.

Making your own stained glass windows

Are you inspired by the beauty of these Catholic stained glass windows?

Then why not try making a small stained glass window by yourself? Making art from stained glass is becoming more and more popular as a hobby.

All you need to start is one of these stained glass starter kits.

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