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The same UV rays that harm your skin can also ruin works of art. Learn how framers keep the sun from stealing artwork's shine with Groupon's look at UV glass.
UV-Blocking Glass: Cutting Off the Bad Side of the Spectrum
If left unprotected in the sun, works of art—especially paper works such as pastels, prints, photographs, and watercolors—will fade and, over time, even begin to fall apart. It may seem as though artwork hung inside an average home with four walls and a roof rather than a weather-repellent force field would be adequately protected from the invisible part of the light spectrum that causes sunburns. But in fact, all visible natural and electric light, indoors and out, comes packaged with UV radiation that, over time, can begin to break down a piece. (Conservationists have even speculated that the Declaration of Independence has deteriorated over time from the light of camera flashes.) All glass will block some UV radiation, but museums, galleries, and anyone who wants to protect valuable pieces for the long haul choose glass that's been coated with a UV-resistant substance, usually by being baked onto the surface or chemically deposited.
Anti-UV coatings—just like sunscreen ingredients, in fact—work in one of two ways: by absorbing the rays before they reach the artwork or by reflecting them back. They do this by changing the surface of the glass, endowing it with a new micro-texture via a material whose molecules are arranged to take in the radiation's energy (in the case of silica, a common coating) or to bounce it right back.
There are a couple of potential drawbacks to this enhanced protection. Some UV coatings can give off a greenish or yellowish tinge, though museum-quality glass is typically made from a special low-iron formulation for maximal clarity. UV-coated glass can also be more vulnerable to scratching or other superficial damage, depending on the coating method used. Besides glass, another option is specially formulated clear acrylic—that is, Plexiglas—in which the UV-blocking agent is mixed right into the plastic. The enhanced durability is especially useful if you're framing a larger work or do a lot of indoor batting practice at home.