Glass is a unique material made when sand is exposed to extremely hot temperatures.
Since humans discovered glass, they’ve turned it into panes for windows, made jewelry from it, and even found new ways to morph it into an extremely strong and durable material called tempered glass.
Considering its many uses, there will likely come a time when you find yourself needing to buy something made out of glass or glass.
With glass fetching prices anywhere from $5 to $6 per square foot, with even more expensive varieties available, you may wonder what makes it so expensive.
Here are 10 reasons glass is expensive.
Why Is Glass So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
If you’re buying a vase or some form of art that’s made out of glass, you can usually expect an expensive price attached to it.
That’s because those pieces often come from glassblowers rather than from a factory.
While factories can produce some items on a massive scale, like windows, there are some things that only a glassblower can make.
A glassblower is someone who heats glass in its liquid form in a furnace, then shapes it into the product that they want to make.
It’s a long process that often results in failure for inexperienced glassblowers.
It’s a type of skill that one can only master with time and experience.
Not unlike blacksmithing, glassblowers mix art with function.
It’s a skill that almost anyone can learn, but only through hard work and time.
Because it takes quite a bit of time to become a master glassblower, those who are employed by companies usually fetch high wages.
Those who work in industrial settings tend to make a bit more money than those on the assembly line.
Others who have their own studios or make art tend to make even more money.
Because it’s difficult to replace one glassblower with the next, most companies want to hold onto their employees.
To do this, they have to ensure that they give them a competitive wage.
This means that the company takes on higher costs.
Since they have higher operational costs, they have to sell their products at higher prices.
The product that you buy from them is thus at a more expensive price point.
The more complex the product, the more that the glassblower is likely to get paid.
Glass is expensive because of the wages paid to skilled glassblowers.
2. Training Costs
Before they become paid employees, individuals looking to become glassblowers have to learn the trade.
That usually means they either go to a trade school or, most often, an art school.
The average cost of going to a trade school is around $33,000.
While it’s significantly cheaper than attending a standard four-year university, that’s still a sizable chunk of change.
Art school is even more expensive.
The average cost to attend an art school is around $46,000.
Essentially, in most cases, prospective glassblowers are going to take on some form of debt to get their training.
The training is also arduous.
Besides learning the mechanics and practical part of glassblowing, they also have to learn how to stimulate their own creativity and inspiration.
Many might discover that they don’t have the artistic ability to create glass art.
While this means they can still work in the industrial sector, that might not be their passion.
As such, they end up leaving the school without a profession.
Others who do find they have skills in the trade need to pay off those debts as soon as they can.
This usually means that they either snag the first job that they can find or start their own business.
If they’re starting their own business, they have additional debt tacked on.
With student loan lenders come knocking on their doors, glassblowers need to receive certain wages to pay them off.
If you buy a glass piece from an independent glassblower, it might be expensive because they’re trying to get out of debt as quickly as possible.
This means that they’re putting higher prices on their products to cover that debt.
Once they’ve paid off their student loans, their prices may decrease a little.
However, until then, glass is expensive because glassblowers have to pay for trade or art school.
3. Time Costs
Another big reason glass is expensive is the time it takes to make a glass product.
While industrial factories tend to pump out glass products faster than independent artists, there is still a time factor to consider.
Because glass can be finicky to work with, it may take a few attempts before the product finally reaches the quality that they want.
For example, glassblowers often rely on the color of the glass to tell them when they can shape or cool or reheat it.
If they’re wrong about the color or timing, they will have to start over again.
Even in an industrial setting, machines can sometimes get things wrong, too.
When that happens, they have to start the process over.
For independent glassblowers, it takes even more time because they’re often handcrafting the entire piece.
They’re working at their own furnace and shaping the product slowly over time.
If the piece is particularly large, it’s going to take even more time.
That said, smaller pieces take time, too.
If it’s a small piece, the glassblower has to carefully shape it to ensure it looks correct and maintains some durability.
If it’s made too thin, the small piece could easily shatter with a single touch.
This makes glass more expensive because the longer something takes, the more expensive its production.
It usually means that there are more worker wages put into the product.
Since workers are usually paid by the hour, if a product has a lot of production hours put into it, it’s going to have a lot of wages put into it, too.
To make up for those costs, a glassblower or company will have to charge a higher amount.
Time is a major factor in the price of glass.
4. Workshop Costs
Whether you’re buying from an industrial company or a private glassblower, you’re going to contend with property or workshop costs.
For a factory, depending on how old the factory is or whether they own the warehouse or not, they’re going to be paying something to work there.
It might be a mortgage, rental costs, or even just property taxes.
Whatever it is, they have to pay it.
An independent glassblower usually has higher costs.
In most cases, they have to pay rent for their workshop.
That’s because not all glassblowers live in areas that will allow them to have a big furnace in their garage.
While some may be able to offset their expenses by having their workshop at home, most others couple their workshop with a store.
This makes running their business a bit easier since they can easily move back and forth between the two to either serve customers or work on commissions.
The problem with having a workshop is that it usually means the glassblower is taking on a high cost.
Some have their workshops and storefronts in urban centers.
When they’re in locations that have a lot of value in commercial real estate, the rent or property tax on that location is going to be high.
There’s also the price of their furnace and the cost it generates.
If they’re renting a place, the landowner likely won’t enjoy the sort of deterioration that comes with a furnace.
The furnace is going to be generating extremely hot temperatures.
That can ruin aspects of the rental property that the landowner will have to pay for later.
To cover those costs, the landowner charges a higher rental price.
To cover the cost of rent, glassblowers and sometimes factories have to sell their products at higher prices.
Glass is expensive because of rental costs or property taxes on workshops and factories.
5. Special Equipment Costs
Another reason glass is expensive has to do with equipment costs.
To make certain glass products, factories and artisans need specific tools.
These tools aren’t often used in other industries.
As such, they’re made for the specific purpose of making glass products.
One might even consider them to be specialized tools.
Because they’re specialized, they often come at higher prices.
The factories that make them aren’t always making them at a high volume.
That’s because the demand isn’t there to warrant a high volume for those types of tools.
This means that the supply of those tools isn’t always available.
For artisans and independent glassblowers, the price of their tools can be quite expensive.
Considering the extreme temperatures that glassblowers use their tools in, it’s no wonder that they degrade quickly.
That means that glassblowers have to keep buying their tools at high prices often.
This adds quite a bit of cost to their operations.
Even factories take on some cost through constant tool replacement.
To keep their tools in stock, they have to ensure that they make enough money to afford to buy more tools as needed.
Glass is expensive because of the higher prices of specialized tools.
Another factor that adds to the cost of glass is whether you want a colored piece of glass or not.
For those who are only buying windows, color probably doesn’t matter.
For those buying glass vases or other pieces of glass art, you may have more of a concern with the color of the piece.
Colored glass is more expensive because it adds another step to the process.
It also means that the glassblower has to buy additional materials to make the color.
Using the dye to make specific designs or shapes in the glass is extremely difficult.
It’s easy to get it wrong, which means wasted time and materials.
While the result is usually a unique piece that looks incredible, the process of getting to that finished state is a long and expensive one.
As a result, with the cost being so high, the price of that piece is also high.
Glass is expensive when you want to use color or add color to it.
7. Tempered Glass Costs
One of the big cost differences you’ll find is between standard glass and tempered glass.
Standard glass is cheaper because can be made quickly and rather cheaply.
Factories and independent glassblowers can get out standard glass pieces relatively fast with minimal materials.
This helps them save on costs which means the price tag is also lower.
When it comes to tempered glass, however, that’s when the price tag starts to become more expensive.
Tempered glass isn’t as easily made as standard glass.
It requires more time because it has to cool at a slower rate.
This makes the glass stronger.
This also means that you can’t customize tempered glass after it’s already been made.
You can’t drill holes into it or cut it.
Since that’s the case, each factory or independent glassblower has to make the tempered piece exactly to custom specifications.
That takes time, too.
With the amount of time it takes to make a tempered glass piece, the costs associated with it are high.
That forces the factory or independent glassblower to sell their tempered glass pieces at higher prices.
There’s also the fact that tempered glass has a lot of benefits.
One of those is that it’s a lot more durable than standard glass.
It doesn’t shatter or crack as easily.
If they do shatter, they do so by falling into tons of small pieces.
These pieces are usually less sharp than standard glass.
It’s safer and easier to sweep them up and throw them out.
There’s less risk of impalement or cutting yourself on the broken pieces.
With its durability, it also means that people are less likely going to need another piece.
This means that the factory is likely going to produce only one or two for someone’s needs throughout their lifetime.
This also adds to the cost of tempered glass since the seller has to generate as much of a profit as they can on a single sale.
8. Shipping Costs
One of the reasons glass is expensive has to do with shipping costs.
If you’re stuck paying for shipping, you’re going to find an extremely high fee associated with your order.
That’s because glass is extremely difficult to ship.
It’s unable to be shipped through most standard options since it’s extremely fragile.
It isn’t as easy as shipping books or even screws, for example.
Without the proper care taken, the product will arrive broken.
That means the company or glassblower loses money since they have to make it all over again.
There are a few things that add to the cost of shipping glass.
The first is its weight.
If you’re having a bunch of windows shipped to your location, you can expect to pay a high price for shipping.
That’s because glass is heavy.
The larger the window is or the more windows you have, the heavier your shipment will be.
Since this means the truck carrying your order is likely going to be unable to carry anything else, its owner needs to make the most money on your order alone.
They’ll increase the price based on the heavy weight of your order.
Another factor is the size of your order.
If you’re buying windows, in most cases, they’re quite big.
That takes up a lot of space on a truck.
That means that truck will be unable to carry much else.
To ensure the shipper is getting enough money on the trip, they’ll charge you a higher price.
Finally, shipping glass is complex.
In some cases, the glassblower will hand-deliver the piece to you themselves.
This is expensive because it requires them to take time out of their day to make the delivery.
Others will need to buy special packaging or equipment to safeguard their glass products.
Because there are a lot of costs associated with it, shipping glass is expensive.
9. Energy Costs
A glass factory, and even an independent glassblower, uses a lot of energy in their field.
That’s because they need highly regulated temperatures for their furnace.
They also need an area where they can rapidly cool their product.
This means they need two areas that use a lot of energy to heat and cool their products.
While having one highly regulated area is expensive enough, the fact that they need two areas makes making glass very expensive.
Factories do this on a large scale, too, which means their energy costs are likely very expensive.
They have to drive their furnaces to extremely high temperatures while having a cool area with extremely low temperatures.
Without those regulated areas, the factory won’t be able to produce glass.
Because its utility costs are high, they have to cover those expenses with their products.
You may even notice that as energy prices rise, the cost of glass also rises.
Glass is expensive because of the cost of energy used to make it.
10. Custom Pieces
A final reason glass is expensive is when you order a custom piece.
Whether it’s a custom window, a custom vase, or a custom art piece, as soon as you ask for something customized, it’s going to come with a high price tag.
That’s because the glassblower or factory has to put aside their standard operating procedures to make that single piece.
That takes a lot of time and effort.
It usually means that they’re going to take on extra costs and may even lose out on money in the process.
To make up for the losses, they have to sell the custom piece at a higher price.
They’re spending more time on your piece and usually neglecting some of their other projects because they have to focus solely on yours.
Glass is a vital part of society.
It makes our windows and windshields.
However, due to the costs of making glass and the type of glass, actually buying anything made out of glass can become quite expensive.