The fine art of protecting possessions with glass

The fine art of protecting possessions with glass

Blog Post
12 Feb 2019

Phil Brown, our European regulatory marketing, discusses how advanced glazing can be used to protect light-sensitive objects from fading in colour over time.


Keeping a treasured artefact or work of art safe in public and commercial spaces means protecting it against every possible threat. That doesn’t just mean security concerns like vandalism and theft, but also the way the piece might react to the environment in which it’s kept. 

Continual exposure to light and oxygen will alter an object’s chemical makeup over time – a process known as photodegradation – causing it to fade in colour often irreversibly. The object’s colour is determined by its chromophores - the part of the atom or molecule that absorbs light. Continued exposure to this light will reduce absorption from the chromophores, making an object appear more faded in colour. 

The glazing industry, with its range of advanced, versatile coatings and interlayers, is well-placed to help collectors, curators and even retailers fight the fade by controlling the factors that cause photodegradation. However, the best glazing to specify will depend on the context, location, and goods that need protection. 

Public spaces such as galleries and museums 

Photodegradation, and the associated loss of colour, can naturally be disastrous for works of fine art, such as those on display in galleries and museums.

Advances in glazing technology have resulted in the creation of special laminated glass that can be used to protect artworks from photodegradation, even incorporating an anti-reflective coating to avoid compromising on clarity of view. 

We recently provided anti-reflective laminated glass – Pilkington OptiView™ Protect OW – to protect a set of Italian masterpieces at an exhibition at Palazzo Te in Mantua, Italy, demonstrating the market for high-performance protective glass.

Commercial spaces

Reducing fading can also be a priority in commercial applications, particularly in the retail sector where high-value items are displayed in shop windows.

With a higher ambient temperature accelerating the fading process, solar control glazing products that regulate internal temperatures – such as Pilkington Suncool™ – are a good way to ensure that goods are protected from fading. For optimal protection, laminated glass can be combined with a solar control coating to reduce the transmission of both UV radiation and heat.  However, contrary to popular belief, it is not only UV that is important – even visible light can lead to fading of materials.

No matter where an object is stored, defending it against fading is crucial in maintaining its long-term value. This is particularly important as glass continues to make up more of the building envelope, letting in more natural light.

Wherever the need may arise, we’re proud to lead the way in developing innovative solutions to help our customers fight the fade and protect their most treasured possessions. For more information about our low-reflective Pilkington OptiView™ product range, please visit: https://www.pilkington.com/en-gb/uk/products/product-categories/special-applications/pilkington-optiview

A 1539 masterpiece by Titian entitled “Annunciazione di San Rocco”, protected by Pilkington OptiView™ Protect OW. Photo credit: Gian Maria Pontiroli©.