Brittle materials such as glass do not possess a single characteristic strength. The strength of the material is dependent on the distribution of cracks or surface flaws. These factors, coupled with the inherent brittleness (cause of catastrophic or rapid failure) mean that extremely conservative design approaches are typically used for optical elements made of glass. Determining a design allowable for glass elements is critical for optical systems using relatively brittle glass types or for optical elements subject to relatively high stress levels. Rule-of-thumb tensile design strengths are typically at 1000 - 1500 psi for nominal glass materials. This neglects the specific glass composition, subcritical crack growth, surface area under stress, and nature of the load - static or cyclic. Several methods to characterize the strength of optical glass are discussed to aid engineers in predicting a design strength for a given surface finish, glass type, and environment. These include estimating fracture toughness for a given glass, predicting inert strength using material test data, and lifetime predictions accounting for static fatigue and cyclic loading. Determining a design strength for a spaceborne optical element is discussed.