Murano glass is exquisitely beautiful. From jewelry to drinking glasses, there is definitely something for everyone. These handmade treasures are created one at a time. Patterns and colors may vary, and some may or may not contain millefiori accents. The surfaces may appear uneven and they’re also in various shapes. This is what makes glassmaking such a special craft. With hundreds of years of history behind it, explore the history of Murano glass and how it is made.
The History of Murano Glass
The origin of glassmaking goes way back to the times of the Roman Empire when they created molded glass for illumination in their bath houses. As early as the 8th century, the Venetian Islands began to specialize in glassmaking. When a ruling class law was passed to avoid the risk of fire in an overpopulated area, the island of Murano was named as the true and most appropriate glass production area.
Decline and Success
Murano glass had moments of success and gradual decline. Competition increased for them from the glassmakers of France and Bohemia. Rulers in the 18th century preferred their glassmaking in Bohemia and passed laws, making it expensive to bring raw materials into Murano. As a result, half of the furnaces were shut down. Although, the industry in Murano did not die completely, Antonio Salviati, who practiced law, went to Venice to open a factory to produce traditional Murano glass. However, there was still constant fall and rise over the years. For example, during World War II the industry did not thrive, but as soon as the war was over the glassmakers continued creating their art.
The Spread of Murano Glass Tradition
Many craftsmen were inspired by the making of Murano glass. The art of glass spread throughout Europe. Wherever there was a demand for glass, productions were created. Many artisans outside from Murano developed an eye for quality in creating beautiful Murano-style glass. Today, all across Italy and the rest of the world, these workshops use the same techniques and materials as a Murano workshop with identical skill and artistry.
How do they create captivating colors?
Murano glass products are brightly colored and often infused with metals such as gold and silver leaf or copper crystals. When creating millefiori designs, they layer and slice colorful glass rods which stretch into unique designs. For other creations, glassmakers use a blowpipe with which they masterfully shape layers of color to achieve a richly-colored decorative piece.
What are the techniques?
As the techniques of Murano glassmaking have evolved, Murano glass has become a valuable treasure over the years. These glassmakers use unique, masterful techniques to create these amazing pieces. Both lampworking and hand-blowing create beautiful Murano style pieces, which is an incredibly rewarding experience to these artisans.
This technique is also known as torchworking. Artists use high quality glass rods which are melted with a torch and then shaped into beads by cutting it with a steel cutting jack. Once they have the glass bead, it is heated to a temperature of about 950 degree Fahrenheit until the material reaches its stress relief point. The bead is then decorated by etching, polishing, or by other techniques.
Lorena’s mother creates stunning jewelry beads using the technique of lampworking in the video below:
Blowing glass is a challenging technique. This technique is done by using a blowpipe and basic hand tools to meticulously shape molten glass. These glassmakers are able to get unique patterns and shapes by blow piping. After the process is complete, the glass needs to cool until it becomes solid glass. The final touch that may be done to a glass piece is polishing, engraving, and enameling.
Our glass Artisan, Vittorio shows his methods on Murano glassmaking.
Both techniques use the annealing process, which helps the glass slowly heal until it reaches room temperature. This process prevents the glass from cracking or breaking easily.