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Quick Guide to Buying Authentic Murano Glass

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!

Murano Glass Guide - How to Buy Authentic Murano Glass

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How To Visit Murano Glass Factory

How to visit Murano Glass factory in Venice
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 and here is why:

  • 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 visit a Murano Glass factory here are our insider tips:

  • Please note that all Murano glass factories are closed for the entire month of August by Murano tradition and primarily due to unbearable heat inside the non-air-conditioned factories aggravated by high outside temperatures. If you must visit during August you may end up in a very touristy place that is a “fake factory” i.e. set up specifically to offer quick demos to unsuspecting tourists and mainly to get them into a showroom and entice them to shop. For this reason if you visit Venice in August, we suggest to forgo a factory visit.
  • 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. make sure to comparison shop around the island before making a purchase – you could save hundreds of dollars this way.
  • If you do decide to buy something, we strongly encourage you to take it with you. There is nothing worse than getting home and trying in vain to track down your shipment. If you would like it shipped, make sure that:
    1. Your purchase will be very well packed (ask the salespeople to show you how they pack glassware for shipping).
    2. Make sure that you know how and when the shipment will reach you. Find out the name of the carrier and insist on getting a tracking number.
    3. Always take down the contact information of the factory and the name and e-mail of the salesperson in case any problems arise later on.

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Where to buy Murano Glass in the U.S.A.?

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 pieces, they instantly get many compliments 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 where they can buy more Murano glassware. Fortunately, there is no need to make a trip to Venice to purchase beautiful authentic reasonably-priced Murano Glass.

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. But be careful with internet shopping because many Chinese factories these days are churning out glassware they label as “Murano” or “Murano style” when in reality it has nothing to do with Venice’s world-famous craft. In addition, many legitimate Murano Glass online stores are physically located in Italy, which may become problematic for the U.S.A.-based customers both in terms of shipping, returns/exchanges and customer service. We have unfortunately heard many sad stories from our customers who were previously ordering from Italian websites and never received their items, or were unable to work with their customer service staff due to the problems with their work hours and the language barrier.
GlassOfVenice Website - we sell only authentic Murano Glass
When choosing a website to buy your Murano Glass treasure you should look carefully at the following:

  • The website should have a well-written “About Us” section where you can find out their credentials and read about the company history. Make sure the company has been in business for at least a few years, and is writing things on their About Us page that resonate with you. Ideally you would understand from this page why they are in this business and why and how they are able to offer authentic products.

  • The website should have contact information including a toll-free phone number and physical address in the United States. Always check on Google Maps or a similar website to see that this address is not someone’s residence but a legitimate business office.

  • The website should spell out easy-to-follow return policies with return for any reason possible within 30-days or more, as well as free replacement of damaged items. This shows that the seller is confident in their product quality and appeal, and is willing to take care of any issues that may arise during shipping.

  • The website should have a large selection of Murano Glass pieces, including jewelry, vases, figurines and sculptures, drinkware and tableware, as well as lighting, and a variety of price ranges all the way to exclusive art glass. This lets you know that the company is serious about its Murano Glass product selection and offers some expensive art glass pieces that are much harder to fake.

  • The website should have clear and multiple high-quality photos and videos of the products. This helps you understand several things:
    1) whether they have Murano Glass pieces in stock (a requirement to make high quality photos).
    2) whether they are serious about Murano Glass and consider it worthy of the spend required to purchase expensive photo and video equipment, or to hire professional photographers.
    3) you’ll know what the product looks like from different angles and see whether it has any markings or labels to better judge about its authenticity.

  • Check out the website’s shipping timelines and existence of expedited shipping options. If the company can ship within 24 hours and has expedited shipping options, such as overnight, that lets you know that they are warehousing the products and not drop-shipping them using a third party. You should avoid dealing with the drop-shippers because it is impossible to verify where they get their pieces from, and they are much more likely to sell fake Murano glass

  • The website which deals in authentic Murano Glass is always interested in educating its customers and helping them avoid fakes, and so it should offer more than just products for sale. Check to see if the website you are looking at has a comprehensive educational section or a blog where the company shares the insights about all things related to Murano Glass, such as masters, techniques, history, and photos and videos.

  • Finally, always check Alibaba website, which has a lot of fake Chinese Murano Glass listings prior to shopping to see what Murano Glass fakes look like (and you’ll be very surprised by how cheap it is!). If you check enough listings of fakes you will be able to spot them much easier when shopping for Murano Glass online.
  • Alibaba sells a lot of fake Murano glass - educate yourself before buying

    We at GlassOfVenice consider it our mission to educate current and prospective customers about Murano Glass and help them buy and enjoy authentic Murano Glass pieces, whether they choose to shop with us at GlassOfVenice.com or not. We work directly with the glass artisans on Murano island bypassing all middlemen, so that we can be 100% confident in the authenticity and quality of our products by following their path all the way from the furnace to our warehouse.

    We are also proud to say that we know all the artisans we deal with personally, and visit them often to foster true collaboration and provide them with feedback directly from our customers to ensure that the product they create works well for our discerning clientele in the United States and beyond. Please feel free to e-mail us at support@glassofvenice.com if you have any questions about Murano Glass shopping on- and off-line or need help with any of our products.

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I have a beautiful glass item. Is it Murano glass?

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.

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What is the difference between Murano glass and any other glass?

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.

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I had a favorite Murano glass item and it broke. Can it be fixed?

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.

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