The final scene in which the prince and his sweetheart, Belle, twirled around in marital bliss after the spell was broken was also illustrated in stained glass.Stained glass had always exerted a fascination on those who behold it, not least because of its association with sacred and ancient architecture in most of Europe.The jewel-like brilliance of the sun shining through pictures of coloured glass evokes a reverential awe in those who view it, especially from the sanctity of a cathedral or ancient castle.
The origins of the first stained glass are lost in history. But they became extremely popular around 1100 AD, when architecture moved away from the heavy, stolid mood of past centuries to the more elegant profound style of the Gothic period. This was when churches became taller and lighter, walls thinned and stained glass was used for the dual purpose of filling larger openings as well as to improve the aesthetics of the buildings.
By the 15th century, stained glass had became a fashionable feature of residences and other public buildings. However, there was a decrease in its usage around the 18th century and except for church windows, its usage declined until the post-World War II era.
Over the past 30 years, there has been a resurgence of interest in stained glass and it can now be found as a decorative feature in homes, offices, banks, airports and hotels where it adds colour, character, warmth, and uniqueness to the built environment.
In Malaysia, the application of stained glass in homes is gaining popularity among the middle- and upper-class market, as its usage is almost limitless. It adds a classic yet modern touch to interiors and the designs can be tailor-made to suit homeowners'taste and personality.
It is also versatile, as it can be adapted to ceilings, windows, partitions, fixed panels, doors or entrances, thus allowing a user to create any mood in a room. It can even be used for sidelights, skylights, transoms, ceiling panels, shower enclosures, signages, tabletops and partitions. The good thing about using stained glass for exterior windows in place of plain transparent glass is that besides the aesthetic advantage, it allows muted coloured light into the house instead of a harsh glare.
Even as it has become more versatile in its function and design, the mode of making stained glass has also become more efficient. Instead of the traditional method, which involved putting together individual pieces of glass to create a complete picture, the contemporary method just uses one piece of glass. This results in a stronger picture than the old method, where the finished product was more flimsy because of the many joins in the piece.
The modern method, called Stained Glass Overlay (SGO) involves the permanent bonding of special coloured adhesive material called "Mylar" on a homogeneous piece of glass through the use of real lead strips of different colours and designs to give a stained glass effect.
One company that has found a niche in designing and making stained glass with the modern method is SGO Designer (M) Sdn Bhd, a one-stop decorative glass art centre for residential and commercial properties with 10 branches nationwide.
According to the company's franchise coordinator Jennifer Lee, SGO can be used for any type of glass, whether annealed, tempered, laminated or acrylic.
"Not only is SGO light and durable, it also exhibits similar characteristics to safety glass. It is fade-resistant and the overlay blocks ultra-violet light penetration by absorbing 85 per cent to 99 per cent of the light," she said.
Besides this, SGO allows for flexibility in design as it can be applied to almost any existing plain glass or for odd shapes.
"No design is impossible for SGO, as there are over 200 colours and textures available, and it can be mixed and matched or customised to suit individuals' requirements," said Lee.
Furthermore, SGO is a solid seamless, one-piece construction and hence, keeps water out and temperature-controlled air in.
"The beauty of SGO, with its trendy designs is that it enhances the surroundings, while giving a personal touch," Lee added.
Although mostly used in residential properties, the stained glass trend is slowly picking up in the commercial sector, she revealed.
Lee said her company offers consultancy services to clients who need advice on design, colour and the way to use stained glass to the best advantage. What would-be users need to do is to give the glass measurements and their preferences to the company, which will undertake to come up with a design.