Murano Glass is beautiful and unique with hundreds of years of artistic tradition behind it. Venetian masters learned from the ancient Roman artifacts and from Byzantine and Egyptian artisans to create masterpieces of blown glass using many different complicated and labor-intensive techniques, such as Millefiori, Sommerso, Bullicante, Filligrana, Lattimo, and others. Unfortunately as Murano Glass masters became famous beyond Venice so spread the fakes. Known as “A la façon de Venise” (or “in Venetian fashion”) glass pieces imitating Murano were made as early as the 16th century in Netherlands, England, France and later Bohemia and other parts of Europe. The very latest fakes are now coming from Asia, China in particular, and flooding the market to the extent that real authentic Murano pieces become harder and harder to find.
We at GlassOfVenice.com love Venice and support Venetian artisans, many of whom come from the long lineage of Murano glass maestros going back to the Middle Ages. Authentic Murano Glass still trumps all the fakes with its exquisite craftsmanship, gorgeous colors and amazing designs that Italian artisans are well known for. Here is our exclusive quick guide to how to avoid being cheated and always select genuine Murano Glass handcrafted in Venice. Murano stands for more than fine craftsmanship – it’s art, tradition, Venetian memories, and rich cultural and artistic heritage of La Serenissima. Get a real piece of Murano Glass – you’ll be glad you did!
We often get questions about the possibility of visiting a factory or a workshop in Murano and witnessing the creation of famous Murano Glass. Unfortunately the artisans we work with and many other high quality Murano glass artists do not open the doors of their workshops to tourists. The main reasons are:
- The artisans consider their business a serious affair and heavily guard their glass-making secrets, so they would like to avoid any unnecessary distractions or intrusions
- The main expertise of the artisans is in production of Murano glass and not in entertaining tourists or explaining the process to them.
- The workshops arent’s staffed to handle the inflow of tourists
- No factories are usually interested in tourist visits just for the sake of showing them the glass-making process. Those factories that agree to hold these demonstrations do so for a chance to sell their wares, often in a pushy way and for above-average price.
If you would still like to see how Murano Glass is made, there is a place in Venice itself called Vecchia Murano that offers free demonstrations (of course with a chance to buy something from their massive store). Vecchia Murano is located near Piazza San Marco right behind the Bridge of Sighs. Also if you take a vaporetto to Murano and just take a walk around the island (which is very pretty, less touristy and much quieter than Venice), you will quickly find furnaces and workshops that are open to tourists and offer demonstrations. If you decide to pay a visit please remember:
- It is best to visit furnaces on weekday mornings. Most of them are closed during the lunch hour (which tends to be longer than in the U.S. and often runs until 2-3pm) and on weekends.
- These tours and demonstrations should always be free of charge. Do not agree to deal with anyone who offers to get you into the factory for a fee.
- In Venice, you may encounter sales representatives from touristy factory showrooms that will offer you a free boat trip to Murano. If you accept, be prepared for a lot of sales pressure when you get there and make sure you know how to get back. In fact it is always better to come to Murano by relatively inexpensive and efficient public transportation, and not have to depend on pushy salespeople.
- The exit from a demo is almost always through a richly stocked showroom where you may encounter variable amounts of sales pressure. Look at the prices first, and if things seem too expensive – don’t buy. The factories often give you an impression that they sell cheaper “direct from factory”, but this is not always true.
- If you do decide to buy something, either take it with you, or, if you’d like it shipped, make sure that your purchase will be very well packed and that you know how and when it will reach you. Take down the coordinates of the factory and the name of the salesperson in case any problems arise later on.
- Please note that almost all Murano glass factories are closed the entire month of August.
While visiting Venice, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity and variety of Murano glass offered for sale all over the city. However, once the tourists return home and start wearing or displaying their beautiful Murano glass purchases, they instantly get many complements and questions about these items, prompting them to think that they should have purchased more Murano glass items both for themselves and as gifts. Then they realize that Murano glass is not widely available around them, and wonder “is it too late to buy more?” Fortunately, the answer is “no, it is not too late”.
While outside of Venice there are not many stores specializing in genuine Murano glass, and counterfeits are abound, one can still find a good selection of genuine Murano glass products even after they leave Italy by going on line. Sites like GlassOfVenice.com feature a full line of authentic Murano glass jewelry, accessories, and home décor imported directly from Venice and offered at very reasonable prices.
As with many works of art, it is not always easy to determine whether a particular glass item is authentic Murano glass, and it is even harder to attribute it to a particular master. Over the centuries, there were so many trends and techniques in Murano glass that the spectrum of possibilities of what a genuine Murano glass item may look like is very wide. From imitations of classical antiquity to enameled glass, glass made to look like chalcedony or other semi-precious stones, glass with filigree and engravings, Murano masters made miracles out of glass for 800 years. These days, one can only come across Murano glassware from the Middle Ages in museums such as the famous Glass Museum in Murano. However, Murano glass from more recent times such as 19th and 20th century, often made by famous masters, can often be found in ordinary people’s possessions.
If you come across an item that you think may be Murano glass, first of all look for any labels, etchings, stamps or signs stating the origin of the item or name of the glass-making company. If you find any, and it contains names like Salviati, Seguso, Barovier, Toso, Moretti, Mandruzzato, Venini, Zanetti, Nason, Signoretto, Barbini, Bianconi, Cenedese or words like “Vetro Murano”, “Vetreria Artistica….Murano”, “Maestri Vetrai Murano” or similar, you are probably holding a genuine Murano glass article. If there are no labels or etchings, identification is more complicated and has to be made on the basis of the look and glassmaking technique alone. The best approach in this case is to take several high quality photos of your article from various viewpoints and send them to experts for identification and attribution. GlassOfVenice.com has been dealing with Murano glass for many years and can help you with such requests for free.
Murano glass is glass in a chemical sense of the word. However, Murano glass is as different from, say, the glass in your window panes, as Rembrandt paintings are different from an empty canvas. Murano glass is created only on the island of Murano, located within the borders of the city of Venice in Northern Italy. This glass is made from silica, soda, lime and potassium melted together in a special furnace at a temperature of 1500°C to reach a liquid state. Gold or silver foil are often added to the glass mixture, along with such minerals as copper for sparkles, zinc for white color, cobalt for blue, manganese for violet, and so on. The mixture is then mouth-blown and/or hand-crafted by master glassmakers using special techniques and basic tools, many of which have been developed in the Middle Ages and changed little since then. This method of glass-making results in unique creations with rich coloring and beautiful, sometimes surreal, patterns and shapes, deserving to be called “works of art”. Even though beautiful glassware has also been created in other places around the world, none of the glassware still being produced has such rich history and so much artistic value as Murano glass.
Murano glass is hand-crafted by masters working the heated-up liquefied glass mass using special centuries-old techniques, and then cooling it down till it solidifies to form a specific pattern within a certain shape. For this reason, when an article made of Murano glass breaks, it is not possible to fix it except for gluing it together. Gluing may work if the item has a smooth break line and broke into only two or three pieces as opposed to many small ones.
If, based on the above conditions, you feel that it may be possible to glue the item back together, first of all you need to buy the right glue. We recommend using E-6000® glue for Murano glass, or any glass for that matter. This is a very strong waterproof and flexible adhesive once it dries. The only downside is its long drying time- make sure to let it dry for 24 to 72 hours after application. With this glue, apply a thin coat to both glass surfaces that you need to attach, wait ten minutes and strongly press the surfaces together. Then put the item aside and let dry. Make sure you use this glue only in an area that has adequate ventilation.
If your Murano glass broke in such a way that it can’t be glued together, or if it just cracked inside its frame (like may be the case with Millefiori pendants), your best option may be to try to find a replacement. Regardless of whether the Murano glass item was modern or vintage, purchased recently or long ago, there are companies specializing in Murano glass that will be willing to work with you to find a replacement. GlassOfVenice.com is one such company, which accepts custom requests and is often able to deliver the specified products.