If you want to buy Murano Glass in Venice, you need to understand several key things: how and where Murano Glass is made and what it looks like, where to find genuine Murano Glass, how to pay the right price, and how to bring your purchase safely back home.
- How Murano Glass is made.There are many different methods and techniques of making Murano Glass, some ancient and some modern, some used to make very light and delicate pieces, others used to create large and heavy imposing objects. Jewelry is frequently made under a small gas flame from special pre-made glass canes, using technique called “a lume” in Italian and “lampworking” in English. Mosaic-like designs are crafted using Millefiori technique, milky opaque designs are achieved with Lattimo technique, regular bubble patterns crafted with Bullicante technique, just to name a few. You need to become familiar with all the main techniques and the resulting designs to understand the important information that the appearance of Murano glass pieces can relay to you.
- Where Murano Glass is made.Murano Glass has been traditionally made on Murano Island in the commune of Venice, but these days the production spilled over into Venice proper. While the official Murano Glass consortium refuses to acknowledge any glass makers who do not physically have an office on Murano, those based in Venice are really every bit as genuine and legitimate as the ones based on Murano, and their glass-making practices are exactly the same. It is important to remember that Murano Glass is not made outside of Venice, even if elsewhere in Italy, and that few, if any, masters of non-Venetian origin are involved in this craft.
- How to find genuine Murano Glass.If you familiarized yourself with Murano glass-making methods and the resulting designs, and have checked out out enough stores (or at least store windows) on Murano Island and in Venice, you will probably know well enough what to expect and what to look out for. Of course any place that has very low prices should be avoided. Your best bets are stores that carry many different styles and types of items, feature sophisticated store design, have knowledgeable staff, and sell pieces that have stickers, signatures, and authenticity certificates.
Always try to talk to the salesperson or store owner before making a purchase and find out as much as you can about the artisans he works with, his experience with Murano Glass, his thoughts on the current state of Venice and Murano Glass industry, and his local knowledge. Stores that stock fakes typically try to save on everything, from store design to sales staff, and will often hire salespeople of non-Venetian or even non-Italian origin, who know little about Murano Glass.
- How to pay the right price.It is very disappointing to find a piece you love and pay a fortune for it, only to find out later that the next store sells something very similar for half the price. Even though you should be aware of places that sell things very cheap (which typically means they sell fakes), it is important to get a good feel for the prices on authentic Murano glass in Venice before buying that piece you just love. There are rarely two pieces that are exactly the same in different stores, but similar pieces made in the same technique are often easy to find, and comparison-shopping is very possible and advisable.
Contrary to popular thinking, Murano Island does not always offer better prices. Many glitzy showrooms on Murano have agreements with Venetian hotels, which talk guests into free no-obligation visits in private boats. Once in the showroom, such captive visitors often experience lots of sales pressure and are made to feel that this is their last opportunity to buy, and the best price they could possibly get. Needless to say, this is usually not the case, but many unsuspecting tourists do fall in this trap and buy expensive pieces on the spot, which they later regret.
- How to ship Murano Glass home from Venice.Once you found the piece you love, are positive that it is authentic, and know that you are paying the right price, don’t yet rush to make a purchase. Find out first how the piece will get to your home. Of course it may be tempting to just take the piece with you, but it may not be practical if it is very fragile, large, heavy, or otherwise presents a challenge on the plane, train or other means of transportation that you will take.
Many Venetian and Murano merchants will offer you to ship your purchase. This sounds convenient but presents its own challenges. When and how will it be shipped? Will you be able to track it yourself? What happens if it gets damaged in transit or disappears along the way? What will you do if due to some misunderstanding or error it never leaves the warehouse, or if you receive the wrong piece altogether? Always make sure that you have the information of the contact person in the store or factory, and have recourse in case something goes wrong with the shipment. If you can take your Murano Glass treasure with you without too much trouble, we always advise you to do that rather than have it shipped.
If you do ship it and something goes wrong, contact the store that sold you the item and speak with them about resolving the situation. The more reputable the store, the higher the chances that they will work with you and make things right.
In conclusion, many people believe that it is best to purchase Murano Glass in Venice because that way they will certainly get an authentic piece at the right price. Unfortunately, just by buying in Venice you are neither assured authenticity, nor a good deal. So many merchants peddle fake glassware in Venice that police is periodically raiding the stores and seizing the counterfeits. Moreover, lots of unscrupulous store owners take advantage of unsuspecting tourists charging them sky-high prices for mediocre-quality pieces that may or may not be genuine. If you do decide to shop for Murano Glass in Venice, please follow our advice to avoid the common traps. It is important to be armed with information in order to solve any potential problems.