Murano is an island located about 1,5 kilometers away from the main city of Venice, in northern Italy. For centuries now, it has been best known for its remarkable glassmakers. First settled in the city itself, the glassmakers were kindly asked to move a few kilometres away in the late years of the 13th century, as the Venetian Republic feared of a fire hazard that would be harmful to its mostly wooden built constructions.
In the 18th century, Murano craftsmen started to design and produce chandeliers, that would soon revolutionize the product and bring an immense fame to its makers. They can notably be found in theatres and many other important buildings. The glassmakers of Murano were seen as an elite in Europe, thanks to their unique techniques that helped them develop enamel glass (smalto), multi-coloured glass (millefiori), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), milk glass (lattimo) and imitation gemstones made of glass.
Jewellery made with those imitation gemstones are still very popular today, and there is no need to go all the way to Venice to get them anymore. Two main techniques of fabrication can be identified for them: lampworked beads and seed beads. The lampworked beads are the most time-consuming as they are made one by one, whereas the seed beads are first molded in a tube and then cut into pieces before being heated again to readjust the shape. Beads can also be blown. The most well-known brands are Venini, Salviati, Barovier & Toso, Pauly, FerroMurano and Berengo Studio.
The industry is not as prosperous today as it used to be, and many artworks sold on Murano island are fakes coming from Chinese factories. To counter that tendency and make sure you are buying the original Murano glass, look for the trademark of origin Artistic Glass Murano. Sadly, many companies producing genuine Murano glass still don’t operate under it. Less than a thousand glassmakers remain today, as customers’ tastes have evolved but the Murano designs have stayed the same for centuries. A wide range of products is however still available, from mass marketed stemware to unique pieces made by small sculptors.
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