FAQ About 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.
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.
This question is by far the most common one among those we receive. And this does not come as a surprise to us, since so many counterfeits have flooded the market in recent years, especially with the advent of the World Wide Web. Most Murano glass lovers appreciate this glass not only for its beauty but also for its historic, artistic, and sometimes sentimental value. So understandably they want to be sure they are buying the real thing rather than some cheap imitation. Here are the things to look for:
- Look at the item itself (or its photos if buying online)
Does the item appear to be hand-made with slightly uneven surface or texture, or perhaps tiny bubbles inside the glass? Are the photos clear and professional showing the surface and texture of the glass? Can the photos be enlarged so you can clearly see the patterns? Are the colors bright and rich? Does the item seem to glow from within? Does the description say "Murano Glass" (and not "Murano-style" or similar)? Does it talk about real gold or silver being used during production of the glass? You want to be able to answer YES to ALL of these questions when you are looking for a genuine article. Always look for the evidence of the hand-crafted nature of the items, good photos, rich colors and specific descriptions.
- Look at what else comes with the item
Does the seller offer a certificate of authenticity stating the origin and the production process of the item? Does the certificate display any text in Italian language? Is special packaging offered with the item? Does the packaging look attractive and is it of good quality? Again if the answer is always YES you are on the right track.
- Look at the seller
Is the seller reputable? Does it share information about itself? Does it specialize only in Murano glass? Does the seller demonstrate good knowledge of Murano glass industry, techniques, production process, and history? Does it possess Italian background, education, or extensive travel experience to Italy? Does it offer a generous Return/Exchange policy? If itÕs a website, is it professional-looking? Is there a real business address and phone number listed on the site? Look out for the addresses in Asia or in developing countries as this often is a counterfeit warning sign. Is it merely a large web portal selling lots of items from all sorts of sellers? Are any client testimonials or product reviews readily available on the site? Answering YES to these questions indicates the the seller is likely to sell genuine Murano glass. On the flip-side, if the seller also sells lots of other cheap-looking jewelry and accessories, is known as a large seller of cheap household names, canÕt tell you much about Murano or Murano glass, does not seem to have any links to Italy, or has a shady website, you are probably looking at counterfeits.
- Look at the assortment of Murano glass products the seller offers
Does the seller offer a wide range of Murano glass products that includes jewelry, home decor items and high-end Murano glass items such as vases, chandeliers, or art glass? Does it offer any Millefiori items? If so, is there a large variety of them and are they of good quality, displaying intricate patterns with many mosaic pieces in them, and rich colors? Millefiori is one of the most difficult Murano glass techniques and is harder to fake than some other ones. Does the seller offer to work with you on procuring any custom items or items not in their inventory? Again, if you answered YES to these questions you can be reasonably sure you are dealing with the seller who offers genuine Murano glass.
In general, trust your instinct and common sense when buying Murano glass. If something tells you "beware", try to find out as much information as possible from the seller, and if you are still not satisfied, just steer clear from it and look elsewhere.
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 dˇcor imported directly from Venice and offered at very reasonable prices.