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What is Murano Glass?

Glass blower heating glass in a kiln.
Venetian glassmakers moved to Murano in the 13th century under orders from the government.
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Murano glass is specially created and treated glass made on the Isle of Murano in Italy. Since the 13th century, glassmakers of Murano have created signature works and processes for glass products such as jewelry. Murano glass is a beautiful medium of art, and comes with an ancient history of innovation.

In the late 13th century, glassmakers were ordered by the Venetian government to move many of their studios to the Island of Murano. It is believed that this was done out of fear of the high temperature firing done by glassmakers, a danger in the largely wooden city of Venice. The glassmaking community of Murano became highly important to Italian trade, and prized for its beauty.

Within a century, the glassmakers were the most prominent citizens on the island. They were allowed privileges usually reserved for nobility, such as marrying into aristocracy and wearing swords. Their goods became so important to the economy of the island that glassmakers were forbidden to move anywhere else, out of fear that they would sell trade secrets to other cities.

To make Murano glasses, a silicate glass is heated to a liquefied state, using intense heat. The liquid is often mixed with other chemical compounds that affect the color, texture and opacity of the finished product. As the glass slowly transforms from liquid to solid, a glass maker can mold it into whatever shape is desired, from tiny beads to fragile vases or lamps.

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The glassmakers of Murano are credited with inventing or modernizing many varieties of glass, including the popular millefiori beads. These intricate beads are created by the layering of many different colors of glass during the solidifying process, which can then be formed into tiny patterns of flowers and geometric shapes. Murano glass also includes some varieties of white milk glass, and aventurine glass, which has gold and copper colored shimmers.

Murano glass and its history form much of the tourist trade for the island of Murano. Visitors, in addition to being able to purchase a large variety of Murano glass goods, can visit several museums dedicated to the art form, and even view glassmakers at work at one of the many glass factories. Many tourist attractions also feature glassblowing demonstrations for the tourist trade.

While the glass techniques are certainly important to the history of glassmaking, Murano glass is not universally adored. Coloring agents used in the firing process tend to produce extremely vibrant shades of blue, yellow and red. Some critics find the bright colors gaudy and disconcerting, and occasionally tacky. However, modern techniques do allow for more subtlety, and Murano glass is used in a variety of modern art pieces of high quality.

If you are interested in purchasing Murano glass products, they are readily available online and in some specialty glass stores. Be sure to inquire from any seller if the glass is authentic or rather “Murano-style,” which can be made anywhere in the world using similar techniques. Authentic Murano work is somewhat expensive, with larger pieces such as vases or pitchers priced between $150-$500 US Dollars (USD). Single glass bead pendants are less expensive, generally costing about $35-$85 USD.

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bythewell
Post 2

@croydon - Millefiori might be going out of fashion but lampwork Murano glass beads are very popular at the moment. They are available in Pandora style, to fit on charm bracelets.

It's nice to be able to buy a tiny piece of jewelry from Murano without having to get something bigger and more expensive. Plus, they make nice gifts. My sisters and my mother all have that kind of bracelet, and we all buy each other a bead (although not always a Murano bead) for special occasions. Cheesy, I know, but it makes deciding on a gift easier.

croydon
Post 1

Millefiori Murano glass beads are pretty and have intricate designs, but I think they have started to go out of fashion somewhat.

I think this is because you can buy a replica of a millefiori design made from polymer clay, or easily make one yourself. It wouldn't have the history and legacy of authentic Murano glass jewelry but it would be much cheaper, and you can easily have it custom made. I usually see that kind of design now and think of surfing culture, which is not the image I think Murano island wants to project.

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