Unfortunately, that answer doesn't work when making sure your documentation and insurance is up-to-date. The real question is "What does a community do in case their windows are destroyed?" And the answer, if everything is in order, is simple: file a claim with your insurance company, conduct a stained glass appraisal, and seek a qualified studio to be your partner in restoration.

Unfortunately, professional stained glass appraisers are almost nonexistent. As of January 2022, there is precisely one Certified Stained Glass Appraiser in the United States. If your collection is a significant museum collection or a signed historical collection, that may be the option you should take. However, when it comes to insurance, the value that your insurance company truly needs is the proper value of potential replacement costs in the case of devastating loss. Luckily, any Accredited Professional Studio is qualified to provide that information. 

Architectural insurance, especially for sacred spaces, has a fine arts section. When an appraisal is done, whether it is the first time the windows have been documented or whether you are updating the information after a period of several years, your insurance carrier should be notified and that information should be added or updated to match.

By having the correct replacement value for your windows, both the church and the insurance carrier can then insure the proper level of potential replacement costs. This dramatically reduces potential surprises for either party when a disaster involving stained glass occurs.

Guidelines to Appraisals and Inspections for Insurance Purposes

The Appraisal Report

A professional appraisal for insurance purposes should include (but is not necessarily limited to) the following:

  • a list of the windows
  • a map of each window's location
  • the name of each window (by scene, by memorial name, or both) along with measurements
  • a high-resolution picture in both reflected and refracted light of each unique window (plus several close-ups of the designs, symbols, medallions and/or figures)
  • a history of the window if known (artist, studio, date commissioned, etc.)
  • a replacement value per window = replication cost if destroyed

Having a Secure Location for Your Records

We all have heard at least one horror story of massive damage to a building where the records needed to restore that building had been held for safe keeping within it—and are thus destroyed when disaster strikes. While a copy of such information is perfectly acceptable to keep on-site, a second copy should most certainly be kept off elsewhere, in a safe space away from the building.

Especially now in the digital age, make several copies! Keep a spare in the cloud! Hand out discs to every member of the preservation committee! Taking these extra steps gives key leaders immediate access to records should a disaster occur. This also allows you to keep hundreds of detailed photos of the windows inside and out on file for very little additional cost. When it comes to photos in the digital age, when trying to reconstruct a window after a great loss, the more is definitely the merrier.

*If your building is of historical or cultural significance to the community, check with your local historical society, library, or city hall. They may also be interested in keeping a copy of your report, images, and records with their digital historical records.

**If you are facing a need for restoration in the coming years, it's never too early to start talking about fundraising campaigns. The information you gather here serves a double purpose as a library of useful images, information, and tools for writing grants, reaching out to local Foundations, and building up momentum with your own capital campaign!

Updating the Appraisal Periodically

The costs of stained glass replication and restoration are rising much faster than inflation. As such, your appraisal will be outdated every few years. If your windows are considered exceptional, an appraisal and/or updated estimation of replacement costs should be conducted at least every 5 years. If your windows are of significant size but simpler in design, you still want to update this information at least every 10 years. In addition, as costs for higher and higher resolution photography become more and more accessible to an increasing number, it cannot hurt to update photographs showing the details of your collection and its installation in the building. There is nothing worse than trying to recreate a window from the blurred background of a recent wedding.

See Even More Information about Documentation

Determining the Value of Your Leaded or Stained Glass Windows

How do you put a value on your stained glass windows, and in turn, how do you maintain, repair, and store them based on that perceived value?

There are several aspects to consider:

Finding a signature: This is usually the name of the artist or studio and the year of manufacture. If it was a large studio, you may be able to easily track down the studio's archives to learn more. The studio may still exist, or a library close to their studio's past location may now hold the archives. If it was a smaller studio or individual artist, the archives may be at their hometown, university, or state archives, or there may be no archives at all. For more information on the artist, you may need to search the local library or tax records. 

If the window is unsigned, and still in its original location, it may have been part of the original design and construction of the home. One would have to rely on original receipts and construction drawings to be sure. 

Catalogue windows: Many early American residential windows were selected from a catalogue and built just as any other element of the home would have been. This does not lessen their value in our lives, it merely means it was more common to add stained glass to your home 100 years ago than it is today! Catalogue windows trend toward simpler designs, mostly clear or opalescent glass in a lead matrix possibly with a central decorative element, but usually no painting or detailed scenes. It is nearly impossible to identify who might have manufactured a catalogue window.

If the window is unsigned and you have a note from a purchaser on the possible original location, that may be as good as it gets. It is extremely difficult to track a residential window without any specific markings or a signature design element that gives a unique clue to the maker.

With catalogue windows, a studio is used instead of an appraiser to determine the monetary value. If you are seeking an appraisal for informational purposes, such as for insurance or a conditions assessment, you can reach out to any Accredited Professional Studio in the Association and ask them for help with those issues. You can find a complete list of those studios on our website here

Since the concept of value is relative, there is no clear cut, “one size fits all” answer.

Monetary Value is usually the type of value that people consider. Monetary value can be:

Market Value: this is how much the windows are worth if you sold them to another party. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to determine. Market value depends upon whether or not there is a market for your windows at all. Some of the finest windows in the world are too large or difficult to display if removed from their original setting, and some smaller stained glass windows tend to have a broader marker due to their portability. Having your windows appraised may be of some help. Especially if they have additional “antiquity” value.  However, the old adage “they’re worth as much or as little as someone is willing to pay” holds true for stained glass.

Replacement Value: This is the most up to date cost of recreating the windows using currently available materials.

Historic or Cultural Value: any historical and cultural significance stained glass windows may have. Some factors that may increase a stained glass window’s historic and cultural value may include:

  • Rarity, uniqueness, or irreplaceability
  • Exceptional or unusual art, design, or craft technique
  • Work from a famous designer or artist
  • Work from a famous donor or memorial
  • Location in a culturally or historically significant building or area

Artistic/Decorative Value: Artistic or decorative value is very subjective. Besides determining if the window is of high artistic quality is determining if the style of the window matches the architectural style of its setting i.e. German Style Painted Windows in a contemporary building.

Spiritual Value: Spiritual value may be of utmost importance for stained glass windows installed in churches or other houses of worship as stained glass windows can transform a building's interior into a conductive space for prayer and reflection. The windows also often themselves tell stories through their depictions of people and events. Many windows were also built as memorials to loved ones.