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November 14, 2005

Museum–quality glass


It'll cost you: if framing a picture costs $200 with regular glass, museum–quality glazing will run you $275, about 40% more.

What do you get for the extra money?

Glass that's non–reflective (above, left; regular glass is on the right), making it easier to see the work beneath it, and protects your art from UV rays.

If you've got delicate pencil drawings, watercolors or prints that are of value you'd be foolish not to go for it.

Professional quality glass has been used for over a decade by museums and galleries and is just now becoming widely available to hoi polloi.

Peggy Edersheim Kalb wrote an informative article about the pricey glass for the Wall Street Journal: it follows.

    Not All Glass Needs to Glitter

    "When I heard the price, I swallowed," says Fern Mills, a collector of antique Japanese woodblock prints who lives in Haddonfield, N.J.

    She was reacting not to the price of the art, but to the cost of framing it: up to $400 per print, much of it for so-called museum-quality glass.

    This specially coated glass protects artworks from ultraviolet rays and minimizes reflections -- and costs about 10 times as much as regular glass.

    Ms. Mills took the plunge and said she was "thrilled" by the results. She is now reframing the rest of her print collection.

    "I'm doing it on the rolling plan because of the expense," she says.

    Used for more than a decade by museums and galleries, professional-quality glass is now widely available to consumers.

    Two companies manufacture it: Tru Vue, based in McCook, Ill., and Denglas Technologies, based in Moorestown, N.J.

    The frame shops that offer the glass say demand has grown: At Aaron Brothers Art & Framing, a Dallas-based chain of 166 stores, sales of museum-quality glass have increased from 1% of its business two years ago to 25% today, says President Harvey Kanter.

    Marion Stroh, who owns Left of the Bank, a frame shop and gallery in Old Greenwich, Conn., says her sales of professional-quality glass have risen dramatically since she introduced it last year.

    "Nobody believes there's glass there," she says.

    Ms. Stroh estimates that if a 16-by-20-inch picture with frame, matting and regular glass would cost $200, the same job would run to $275 with museum-quality glass.

    Consumers can also opt for glass that only screens out ultraviolet rays; it is slightly more expensive than regular glass.

    Custom-framing is a $1.8 billion business, according to the Professional Picture Framers Association, an industry group based in Jackson, Mich.

    They estimate that 7.4% of American households had a piece of art custom-framed in 2003.

    Lora Baier of Sammamish, Wash., says she used museum-quality glass to frame a 1920s newspaper article she wanted to hang in her brightly lighted home office.

    The framed article is now protected from the sun and, best of all, she says she is able to read it clearly while seated at the desk several feet away.

    "Anything with print, I highly recommend it," Ms. Baier says.

    But not all consumers are lining up for the new glass.

    "Only about a half to 1% of our business is museum glass," says Michael P. Murphy, manager of the Frame & Art Warehouse in Yonkers, N.Y., a discount frame shop.

    Mr. Murphy had high hopes for museum glass but, he says, "most of our customers just won't go for the price."

November 14, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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