The Story of Millefiori – Thousand Years of Glass Flowers

For connoisseurs of glass art, murano glass invokes images of almost thousand years of tradition, inventiveness and forms that followed styles and demands of particular times. But for majority of people, Murano glass is the synonym for beautiful objects decorated with tiny colorful glass flowers – Millefiori. Italian for ‘a thousand flowers’.
Murano Millefiori PendantMurano Millefiori SnailMurano Millefiori Bowl
The term “millefiori” was used to describe mosaic beads first time by the London glass maker Apsley Pellatt, in his book “Curiosities of Glass Making”. Today, the term millefiori is used not only to describe colorful glass flowers, but a glass making technique that survived centuries of changes of fashions and styles and is now popular on all continents. New technologies enable glass makers now to produce these beautiful glass objects for a fraction of the price and make it possible even for people with small budgets to own a unique Murano glass art piece. But, what every owner of Murano millefiori glass piece should know is that their precious Murano millefiori pendants or vases have long and interesting history.

The path which this wonderful technique took until it came to Murano glass makers, who refined it and made it famous all over the world, is long and curious. It is believed that Egyptians first came to the idea to fuse different colored glass between the third and the first century B.C. After them, Phoenicians and Romans also came to the same idea. It would be interesting to know if they influenced each other, or the same idea came to different artists in different countries independently.

The oldest intricate and very well preserved Roman Millefiori beads were found by archeologists, who believe that they were made between 50BCE and 300CE.

Romans brought the technique to Europe and some glass rods were found on 8th century archaeological sites in Ireland. Some millefiori-decorated jewelry was found in Sutton Hoo, the early 7th century Anglo-Saxon cemetery.

Nobody knows how and why it happened, but after 8th century the knowledge of making millefiori glass was lost and not seen again until 15th century, when Murano glass makers rediscovered it, or maybe reinvented it, and made it famous all over the world.

It is difficult to imagine that such complex and intricate designs like millefiori decorations and beads start as simple, thin glass rods called “murrine”. The rods of different colors are fused together in high heat, stretched to the desired thickness while hot, and then cut into fine segments. Depending on the color of rods, each cut segment shows differently colored flower. The flowers look so real and vivid, like they were created by nature, just for our pleasure. Once cooled, each ‘flower’ is fused into a hot glass object like a vase, paperweight, lamp, or is set in gold or silver and made into a piece of jewelry.

Although thousands of millefiori objects are made in Murano today, they are still made by Murano glass makers by hand, and each piece is unique. The technique is now used by glass makers all over the world, but it is easy to recognize intricate and vividly colorful art typical for Murano.

At GlassOfVenice.com, We feel that the handmade colorful and precious murano glass objects allow us to go back in time and capture the fragile beauty of Venice, and we are happy to share this opportunity with our customers worldwide.
Please see our wide selection of millefiori and other murano glass objects at at www.GlassOfVenice.com
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