Category Archives: Murano Glassmaking

Murano Glass Making has its roots in Roman and Byzanthean glassmaking industries. In an effort to restore the ancient glassmaking techniques and recreate some of the beautiful Roman glassware, the glass artisans of Murano tirelessly experimented with chemical compositions, tools and methods of hot glass workmanship for centuries until they achieved excellence and worldwide fame in the middle ages. Today Murano island in Venice is a well-known center of excellence for art glass and the place where top talent descends to learn glassmaking from the master artisans who have been crafting beautiful glass for functional and decorative purposes for many generations.

Why Is Murano Glass So Expensive?

Murano Glass bowl is being made by an artisan in Murano Italy
Murano Glass bowl is being made by an artisan in Murano, Italy

Why is Murano Glass so expensive? Authentic Murano Glass is art glass that is made by hand in Murano, Italy using only basic tools, special furnaces, and the techniques that come from ancient times. Italian artists and artisans need decades of hands-on experience in order to craft the high-quality art glass that is valued by collectors and art aficionados. Add to this the high prices of raw materials which often include precious metals and you will realize why Murano Glass prices are much higher than factory-made glassware you can find anywhere.

So what determines the prices of Murano Glass pieces and why does Murano Glass seem expensive compared to factory-made knock-offs? We break it down for you here:

  1. The special skills the artisans need to create Murano Glass and the small number of qualified Murano Glass artisans. There are many Murano Glass techniques that master artisans may use, such as Millefiori, Avventurina, Sommerso, Filigrana, and each master typically specializes in only one or two techniques. These techniques are complicated and many pieces take hours and several artisans to make, which leads to a high price tag.
  2. The source materials get more expensive each year. Some colors require the incorporation of metals such as cobalt, silver, or gold. In many cases, Murano pieces have special shimmer, which is achieved by layering glass with 24 karat gold or .925 sterling silver. Needless to say, the precious and semi-precious metals command high prices that keep on increasing over time.
  3. The expenses involved in operating furnaces. While small jewelry is typically crafted using only a small flame, larger pieces such as tumblers, bowls, vases, sculptures, and chandeliers require the use of special furnaces. Murano Glass factories making those items are organized around one or more furnaces (“fornace” in Italian), which take a long time to bring into proper operating condition, cannot be extinguished overnight, and use high volumes of expensive gas. In addition, in the pandemic times, many restrictions hit the operation of factories on Murano very hard, as blowing glass in a confined space is an inherently risky activity during a pandemic.
  4. The high rents for store owners in Venice, Italy. Murano Glass sellers in Venice need to pay high rents for the premium real estate and storefronts that line the busiest alleyways and squares (or rather “campo’s” or the “piazza” in the case of Piazza San Marco) in Venice. In addition, because Venice’s floods are frequent and sometimes severe, the insurance costs for both space and the merchandise run high and restoration after floods takes time and effort. Therefore, as strange as it is, often you will pay more for the same item in a Venetian store than you would to an online seller, even abroad.
  5. The customs charges and shipping fees for sellers abroad. Murano Glass is only produced in Venice, Italy, therefore, all sellers outside of Italy need to import it in order to sell. Importing comes with high costs made up of customs fees for each item dictated by the country of the importer and the shipping fees that can make up as much as 20-30% of the price. Shipping and insuring fragile and heavy glassware across continents is a costly undertaking, and the price of Murano Glass pieces reflects this.
Artisans making Murano Glass vase in Murano Italy
Murano Glass artisans creating a vase at a glass-making factory in Murano, Italy

After you take these factors into account, you will better understand why Murano Glass commands high prices. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot find an authentic piece at a reasonable price. Small Murano jewelry is typically much cheaper than larger creations and a set of unique cufflinks, a lovely handmade Murano Glass pendant, a pair of shimmering earrings or a gold leaf-lined statement ring may be all you need to add a stylish accent of Venetian charm and Italian craftsmanship without breaking the bank.

At GlassOfVenice.com we have the world’s largest collection of authentic Murano Glass jewelry and accessories so that you can find a piece that brings out your personal uniqueness, or find the perfect gift for an elegant woman or man who loves Italy and appreciates the artisan traditions of Murano and beyond.

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Is Murano Glass Valuable?

Murano Glass Is Valuable - Salviati, Toso, Moretti. Murano Glass Museum, Venice
Murano Glass By Salviati, Toso, Moretti, 19th Century. Murano Glass Museum, Venice.

Is Murano Glass valuable? You may wonder -is that Murano piece my grandmother left me special? Yes, many authentic Murano Glass pieces have appraised value of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Depending on who made them and when, which technique was used, and how rare a piece is, it may be a highly valuable special work of art, or it may be considered a valuable antique.

So why is Murano Glass valuable? And where does its value come from? Here are the main aspects that help determine the value of a Murano Glass piece:

  1. The master or the glassworks that created the piece. Many masters of Murano Glass attained worldwide fame for the special artistic value of their pieces. This list includes Paolo Venini, Alfredo Barbini, Archimede and Livio Seguso, Carlo Scarpa, Vittorio Zecchin, Lino Tagliapetra, Carlo Moretti, Fulvio Bianconi and many other prominent Venetian glass artists. Their signed works, as well as the works marked with the stamps of the most prestigious Murano Glass companies, such as Barovier and Toso, Fratelli Toso, Venini, Moretti, Formia, Gambaro e Poggi, Simone Cenedese, Alessandro Mandruzzato, command high values and top prices on the antique market.
  2. The craftsmanship and the technique. Certain techniques of Murano glass-making are very complex and require incredible skill and precision along with artistic talent. Filigrana, Reticello, and Zanfirico are some of the rarest and valued Murano Glass technique, involving heating, stretching, and twisting glass canes into elaborate lace-like designs. Millefiori (or Murrina in Italian) is another one, where tiny pieces of glass canes with designs inside are fused together into quilt-like patterns.
  3. The age and condition. Murano Glass is an art, and like all artworks, Murano Glass pieces become more valuable with age. Every period of Murano Glassmaking has a unique appeal. The most valuable pieces are the ones that survived from the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th century Venice, many of which are in museums, while others are carefully kept in private collections. Artworks from the 20th century are easier to come across, with mid-century works making up the majority of this century’s Murano Art Glass heritage. Specialized antique online marketplaces, auction houses, and serious Murano Glass sellers such as GlassOfVenice.com offer authentic valuable mid-century and other vintage Murano masterpieces at competitive prices.
Murano Glass Art By Carlo Scarpa, 20th Century Vintage Glass.

Murano Glass is certainly valuable, first and foremost because it is an art form. You can find many Murano Glass items in the most famous museums of the world, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Getty Villa to The British Museum, The Louvre, Murano Glass Museum in Murano, and other prominent collections. But it is possible to own a valuable piece of Murano Glass without breaking the bank. Check out the Vintage Glass Collection curated by Glass Of Venice where we offer valuable pieces by Formia, Loredano Rossin, Seguso Vetri d’Arte, Licio Zanetti, Salviati, and others, which are the true art heirlooms to keep in your family and pass to future generations.


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Where To See Murano Glass Blowing When Visiting Venice

Where To See Murano Glass Blowing? We’ll tell you how to find the best family-owned real Murano Glass factory where you can see the real glass-making, not a tourist show. If you get trapped into the tourist pitch, you will see a very basic short demonstration by someone who barely knows the craft, and will be quickly ushered into the retail area and encouraged to shop and overspend. To avoid this experience, we recommend a place where you can see the authentic glass-blowing process on Murano without any sales pitch.

  1. How to avoid a tourist trap While there are many factories and workshops on Murano, there are also many that pretend to be factories, when in reality, they are merely showrooms. In order to get the best glass-making demonstration experience, a tourist must be careful and not get pulled into showrooms and retail stores pretending to be factories. Most places that offer demonstrations on Murano are just such retail locations. They often claim to be the only place where you can see a real Murano Glass demonstration and the items they sell are overpriced and often not authentic Murano Glass.

    We also strongly recommend that you steer clear of hotel-sponsored trips to see Murano glass-making. And do not engage with people strategically standing near Vaporetto stops with signs on seeing Murano glass-making.

  2. Where to see the real Murano Glass demonstration The place that we know well and recommend to our customers and all Murano visitors is located at Calle San Cipriano 48, 30141 Murano and is called Vetreria Murano Arte or VMA. For a small 3 euro fee, you can see real masters work in the real family-owned Murano Glass factory and create wonders of Murano Glass. The added benefit is that you don’t need to make reservations in advance or connect with an organization that will facilitate the glass-blowing demonstration. Just show up at your convenience and see the demo with no sales pressure.

    Murano Glass Blowing Demonstration

  3. How to get to Murano Island and see the glass making demonstration To see this glass blowing demo all you need to do is take Vaporetto to Murano from Fondamente Nove stop in Venice and get off at Murano Colonna stop. Then ignore all the people promoting demonstrations and holding up signs, get off the Vaporetto, turn left and walk along the embankment. In about 5-7 minutes you will reach Vetreria Murano Arte. The demonstration is open weekdays between the hours of 9am and 4pm. Children under 11 years all can see the demonstration free of charge.

Murano Glass Blowing is a mesmerizing process which takes its roots from Roman glass-blowing and has evolved over the centuries in the Venetian Republic and in modern-day Italy into a prominent art form. There are hundreds of workshops and small factories on Murano island, most family enterprises, where one or more maestro’s work with hot glass, assisted by a few helpers.

A typical factory has several furnaces where the artisans repeatedly heat up the glass mass to make it malleable. Once heated up, the master takes the glass blob on a metal rod to the special bench, where they work on the hot glass blob, while constantly turning the rod to make sure the shape stays and the glass doesn’t fall onto one side. The masters use very basic tools and instruments to cut and shape the glass, and it’s their precision, experience, talent, and fantasy that make their creations unique art glass pieces renown throughout the world.

To become a Murano Glass master, one has to start out working in a furnace as a child and work alongside an experienced maestro to learn all the tricks and secrets of this unique and ancient trade. The most talented artisans then develop their own manner and artistic style, becoming famous maestros in their own right. This old-fashioned way of learning is still practiced in Murano, and all the masters we work with at Glass of Venice have learned their craft in this way.

If this sounds interesting, the next time you are on Murano make sure to visit the real glass-making demonstration without the sales pitch, and then walk around Murano island at your leisure. Peek into stores and galleries and view the beautiful Murano Glass jewelry, vases, sculptures and figurines to see if anything attracts your attention.

If you find a piece that you’d like to purchase, make sure it’s authentic. If you are taking it along with you, ensure that it will be packed well for its voyage home. Otherwise, if you would like it shipped to your home, remember to take down the information about the store, the salesperson, and agree on all the specifics of shipping to avoid any surprises with regard to the shipping fees and timing.

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How Expensive Is Murano Glass?

Murano Glass Making - How Expensive Is Murano Glass

How expensive is Murano Glass? Authentic Murano Glass prices range from very affordable small jewelry that is under $20 to extremely expensive art glass pieces which run into thousands of dollars. The great news is that you do not need to break the bank to own a piece of genuine Murano Glass.

So why are certain Murano Glass pieces more expensive than others? We explain what Murano Glass prices depend on. Here are the key factors that define the price:

  1. The difficulty of making the piece. This depends primarily on the Murano Glass technique used by the master. Some techniques involve multi-step processes, which require exceptional skill, precision, and take a long time to complete, making the piece very expensive.
  2. The cost and difficulty of obtaining source materials. Gold and silver leaf layering have high costs, thanks to the use of 24 karat gold and .925 sterling silver.
  3. The item type and color. This matters because Murano Glass colors are created using minerals fused into the hot glass. Murano Glass chandeliers, vases, and sculptures in red and black colors are usually more expensive than blue or transparent ones. Larger and more complex Murano Glass pieces, like large sculptures or chandeliers, cost more than smaller ones.

The main factor that determines the price of a Murano Glass piece is workmanship. For example, Millefiori (translated from Italian as “a thousand flowers”) is a technique of creating special Murano glass canes with a pattern inside, then cutting them up into small cross-sections (“murrine”), then assembling the murrine into a certain pattern, and fusing them together in the furnace multiple times to achieve the famous mosaic glass, or Millefiori, look.

Millefiori Glass Making - How Expensive is Murano Glass

This is a painstaking process which requires exceptional skill, dexterity, and many hours of work even for a small piece. Hence, Millefiori Murano Glass typically commands higher prices and it is easy to distinguish fake Millefiori glass from the real Murano-made, as counterfeits are usually sloppily made in China, and lack exquisiteness and brightness of colors that distinguish authentic Murano Glass. You can expect to pay $20 – $50 U.S. dollars for authentic Millefiori earrings and pendants, depending on the size and pattern, and over $100 U.S. dollars for Millefiori vases and sculptures.

Sommerso Murano Glass Making - How Expensive is Murano Glass

Another expensive Murano Glass technique is Sommerso, which is crafted by carefully dipping glass of one color into molten glass of another color, and potentially creating more than 2 layers this way. This is a very difficult process which, when executed correctly, means that the layers of differently colored glass never mix, creating distinct bands of colors within one art glass piece. Sommerso vases, bowls, and sculptures command relatively high prices, from around $150 for a relatively small 2-layer piece to over a thousand dollars for large multi-layer Sommerso art glass creations.

Murano Glass Tre Fuochi Wine Glasses

One more example of expensive glassware is gold-leaf and enamel-decorated Murano Glass made in a rare technique called Tre Fuochi, which means “three flames” or “triple-firing” in Italian. This technique hails from the opulence of the eighteenth century Venice where many wealthy Venetians and foreigners sought out exclusive tableware to show off their elite status at dinners and balls. Tre Fuochi technique involves lots of expensive 24 karat gold and painstaking manual work of painting gold leaf and enamels on the glassware.

The process is split into three stages. First, intricate gold leaf decoration is applied by hand to the colored glasses, goblets, carafes, bowls, or vases. Then the glassware goes into the special furnace which is heated up to the point when the gold permanently bonds with the glass. After that in another manual decorating session, various enamels are handcrafted on the glass, usually in the form of flowers, leaves, or abstract elaborate decorative elements, and then the glassware goes into the furnace again to make the enamel fuse with the gold and the glass. In the end, the final decorative touches are added by hand and the glass goes into the furnace for the third and last time to ensure complete fusion. Then the glass undergoes gradual cooling to ensure it won’t shatter from stress.

Needless to say, this extremely complex process is costly, and requires a lot of time, skill in both glass-blowing and hand-decorating, and special furnace setup. Therefore, very few artisans still create these pieces and you can expect to pay high prices of over a hundred dollars per piece for tre fuochi wine glasses, carafes, and other tableware.

It is hard to save on Murano Glass, since much of the price is based on the amount of work and skill required to produce this exquisite glassware in Italy. However, in order to pay the best price, it helps to understand what determines the price and shop around to see who offers the best prices. However, after accounting for the size, workmanship, and color, the price should still look reasonable and not so low that it’s likely the piece is fake. Often the best prices are found in small stores on Murano island (not the large and commercialized “factory” outlets, which are often not affiliated with any factory at all).

The next best option is on the internet, where you can find large importers and distributors who can keep the prices low due to the high volumes and lack of retail space. Our company, GlassOfVenice.com has been in business for over 10 years and is the largest online distributor of authentic Murano Glass in the world. Unlike our competitors, we have exclusive contracts with many small family Murano Glass workshops, which allows us to offer the highest quality exclusive artistic Murano Glass at very reasonable prices.

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Highlights Of The Murano Glass Museum

The Murano Glass Museum is a major tourist attraction on Venetian island of Murano, and one that uniquely represents the rich history of glassmaking present on the small Venetian island. Many tourists wish to visit the museum, and rightly so, as the large venue houses historical artifacts and beautiful displays that are unique to Murano.

There are both permanent and temporary exhibitions open to tourists, and those who purchase tickets are granted admission to the majority of the museum, including any special or seasonal shows. The museum was renovated recently, and the building itself is almost as beautiful as the treasures kept within it. Below, we detail some of the highlights of the Murano Glass Museum, that stand out amongst all of the stunning exhibitions.

Murano Glass Museum Permanent Exposition

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Dale Chihuly – American Vision of Murano Glass

Venice’s longstanding tradition of glassmaking has continued throughout generations, and to this day, the Venetian island of Murano is still internationally renowned for its active involvement in the glassmaking industry. For this reason, artists with an interest in all things glass, will typically flock to Venice- and observe the work of famed Italian artisans who still reside in the stunning city in the Venetian lagoon.

Dale Chihuly is no exception. The American artist, who studied in prestigious institutions across the United States, embarked on a glass art pilgrimage in the late 1960s. After graduating from the Rhode Island Institute of Art, he traveled to Venice, in an effort to explore different glassmaking techniques. During this trip, he worked for the renowned Murano glass company Venini, in their world-renown Venetian factory.

Chihuly Glass Flowers Ceiling
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The Great Murano Glass Masters: Alfredo Barbini

Murano’s history is made by hundreds of talented and ingenious glass masters. Many of them attained prominence centuries ago, while others are still stunning the world with dazzling creations. Others have collaborated together to evolve the glass-making industry and bring it global fame, which it is still enjoying today. Each and every one of them, however, has contributed invaluably to Murano’s history and beauty, surprising admirers and collectors with new ideas, artistic boldness, and alluring designs. Such is the case of the Barbini family, who has been an important presence in Murano’s history since ages ago, and is still present in today’s picture.

The Barbini family goes back a long way. Their story in the Murano Glass industry can be traced back to the XVI century, when the family name was added to Venice’s Golden Book, a book known for containing the crème de la crème of Venetian noble families and the best glass masters, whose guild received special permission to be in the Book. Members of the Barbini family played active roles in Venice’s history for a long time, be it in politics, commerce, or different areas of glass production. Many of them became famous thanks to their beautiful Venetian mirrors, others thanks to their enamel glass, others still for making majestic chandeliers. Some members of the Barbini family even moved to abroad in order to create decorative glass exclusively for royal houses and the wealthiest foreign families. During the following centuries the Barbini family started counseling other glass masters, such as Pietro Bigaglia, the Briati family, the Bertolini brothers and Benetto Barbaria. All of them in turn went on to make significant contributions to Murano’s glass-blowing innovations and history.
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The Great Murano Glass Masters: Paolo Venini

When talking about Murano’s history in glassmaking, it is natural to find only the best of the best glass masters working on these precious and unique designs. Some of these stories are full of unexpected surprises, stunning beginnings, and eminent success. Such is the case of Venini, one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned glass masters of all times. 

Born in a small town near Milan in 1895, Paolo Venini studied to become a lawyer but would soon change course when he crossed paths with fellow Italian Giacomo Cappellin. In 1921, the two Italian entrepreneurs opened their first glass factory in Murano, naming it Vetri Soffiati Muranesi Cappellin Venini & C. A third associate, Andrea Rioda, would later join the team. The idea was to reopen Rioda’s glass factory and summon back all of the company’s former glassblowers, taking advantage of the firm’s long history and know-how. Unfortunately, their plans did not go accordingly due to Rioda’s departing before the beginning of production. The partnership further dissolved after Cappellin decided to part ways in 1925 in order to launch another firm, taking many glass masters with him along the way. Venini, however, managed to reposition himself as one of Murano’s leading glass masters, renaming his company Venini & C.
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Murano Glass Making Techniques: Bullicante

The quality and tradition that characterize Murano’s finest glass furnaces have always been worthy of the highest appreciation. This prestige is due mostly to the glass masters’ hard work and dedication, which are the very core of Murano’s most famous trade. Glassmaking has been passed on from one generation to the next one, with constant innovations and timeless originality. The loyalty and respect with which this trade is treated is possibly the key to Murano’s success. Glass masters all over the island have always worked with endless vitality, and this creative vein is evident in every glass artwork that comes out of any furnace, with improved techniques and bewildering effects.

Always ahead of his time and anticipating any trend, Archimede Seguso was the perfect example of Murano’s best talent. Knowing how to interpret the world around him and always renewing and perfecting his production techniques, Seguso came up with one of the most astounding and marvelous of innovations, the bullicante technique.

Murano Glass Masters symbol - Peacock

The “bullicante” effect is amongst the most famous glass making techniques and it is seen quite often around the island of Murano. If you’ve had the fortune of strolling along the streets of Venice, you would have noticed beautiful glass pieces with small air bubbles trapped in the inside, possibly stopping to wonder how that seemingly impossible effect is achieved. This peculiar effect is obtained by placing a piece of molten glass inside a metallic mold with spikes, very much resembling a pineapple’s texture. These spikes cause small holes on the surface creating a pattern all around the glass piece. After it’s been left to cool down for a few moments, the whole piece is submerged in molten glass again. This second layer completely covers the first one. However, thanks to the thick consistency of glass, the holes previously impressed on the first layer are not covered, thus causing air to be trapped between both layers of glass. This process can be repeated several times, creating a pattern as complicated as the glass master wishes. This technique gives not only a sense of depth to the whole object, but also an incomparable decorative effect, famous for its originality.

Murano Glass Bullicante Vase from GlassOfVenice

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Murano Glass Making Techniques: Filigrana, Reticello, Zanfirico and More

The glass production in Venice represents one of the most important and influencing factors of the city’s economy, and it is no secret that the best glass furnaces reside in Murano. When walking through the streets of Murano, it is almost impossible to name and enumerate all the intricate and complex techniques used in the production of these artworks. And if we were to enter a furnace and listen to the craftsmen talk, we would probably simply hear confusing words such as filigrana, retortoli, reticello, or spirale, without even knowing which technique is which. Every technique, tool, shape and type of glass has its name, quite distinct, and part of the glass masters’ vocabulary since almost a thousand years ago.

The most ancient piece of evidence documenting the existence of glass artworks dates back to the year 982, and thanks to this document, in 1982 the world celebrated a thousand years of Venetian glass artworks. Many other historic documents testify the work of furnaces along the Rio dei Vetrai river in Murano, where one can still find the finest and oldest furnaces in the city. In order to keep the industry’s secrets and glass masters from leaving, the Republic of Venice came up with several acknowledgements and distinctions to those who would create the finest and most creative of glass works. The Republic also protected some of the most important discoveries and innovations of those times, such as the “filigrana a retortoli” and “filigrana a reticello” that became famous around the sixteenth century.
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