We define Combination Glass as windows that combine stained glass, beveled glass and jewels. Stained glass windows have included jewels as decorative embellishments throughout modern stained glass history, and were used well before the Victorian Age. Beveled accents in stained windows, however, were not frequently seen before 1875. Beveled glass making was an industry in and of itself, and it was historically expensive due to the high cost of the plate glass and the extensive labor costs. In the mid-1880’s a less costly plate glass became available which allowed bevel makers to compete with stained glass makers.
During this same time period, the richly diverse, ever-changing American architectural scene continued to break new style barriers. Everywhere there seemed to be architectural awareness as decorative artists, designers, architects and art critics competed to be influential. The architecture of America had evolved into what is categorized as the Eclectic style. These were days of fearless architectural innovation. New levels of embellishment and sophistication were accomplished in the years from the mid-1880’s to the turn of the century. It was during this period that the most creative Combination windows were made.
For the first time, beveled pieces were used not just as accents or borders, but as integral parts of a window’s design. For example, a group of individual beveled pieces might form an ornate urn from which issued forth stained glass flowers with jeweled centers. Bevels were used to create sunbursts, serpentine tracings, shell patterns and even flowers, usually within a largely stained glass composition. Jewels of all shapes, colors and sizes were worked into imaginative combination windows if the artists (or the client) thought it was appropriate. A good percentage of the Combination windows that we have encountered were custom made, and therefore, one of a kind.
The hotbed of Combination windows was America’s Midwest. Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Indianapolis (and other cities, including San Francisco) turned out fabulous examples. Some of the most dazzling Combination windows were installed into grand homes in lesser known wealthy communities such as St. Joseph, Missouri.