While hiking in South America’s chilly Andes Mountains, husband-and-wife architects Andrew and Lori discovered the incredibly warm yet lightweight garments that the indigenous people weave from alpaca fiber. Today, they collaborate with artisans in the Andean Quechua communities of Ecuador and Peru, creating original contemporary designs – and sustainable jobs – for the artisans who use centuries-old looms to create stylish accessories and clothing from one of nature’s most versatile and renewable materials.
Slip on our soft, warm and luxurious shawls and scarves and you’ll never want to take them off! Handmade by our artisans in the Andes Mountains, these layers are perfect for those cold winter days. They’re hypoallergenic, too!
Traditionally, sapphire is a brilliant blue gem ranging from medium to royal blue. The more uniform the color, the higher the quality and thus the more valuable it is. Occasionally, sapphires may display a color other than blue, such as yellow, green, or violet. These are known as a “fancy sapphires.”
What Does It Symbolize?
The rich, royal blue color of many sapphires is commonly thought to symbolize just that – royalty and wealth. Like any gem, sapphire has long been thought to represent a number of other things, including innocence, truth, romantic love, and good health. Ancient Persians believed it was responsible for making the sky blue, and throughout history, it has been used in various religious ceremonies, as a source of protection against bad luck, and to decorate jewelry.
Where Is It Found?
Some of the finest and most valuable sapphire stones come from the South Asian island country of Sri Lanka. The first sapphires found in the United States were discovered in 1865 by miners in Montana.
And, of course, you can find sapphire-inspired treasures here at Uno Alla Volta! Here are a few of our favorite handcrafted pieces featuring this gem, and others inspired by its rich color:
≈ Comments Off on The History Of Murano Glass & How It’s Made
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.
As early as the 14th century, Mayan and Aztec Indians sought and gathered Mexican fire opal, calling it “quetzalitzlipyollitli.” Today, this national gemstone of Mexico is also referred to as fire opal, sun opal, cherry opal, and the Spanish word for sunflower – girasol. The Mayans and Aztecs used this gem in mosaics and rituals, while today it decorates beautiful pieces of jewelry. After the passing of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations, knowledge and appreciation for fire opal disappeared. It wasn’t until the early 1800’s when an emergence of mining for fire opal and a renewed appreciation for its beauty appeared.
Mexican Fire Opal is formed when silica and water deposits are left in the voids left behind by volcanic gas bubbles and rock fractures. The silica does not crystallize, but rather solidifies, forming a gel that is filled with microscopic water bubbles. When light makes contact with this gem, it passes through the microscopic water bubbles and creates a spectrum of color – essentially creating a rainbow. The most significant deposits of fire opal are found near the extinct volcanoes in Queretaro and Jalisco, Mexico.
To create our Mexican fire opal jewelry, artisans produce opal resin by crushing natural Mexican fire opal, and then mixing it with a specially developed resin. This allows for the mineral to be cut, shaped, and set into the jewelry.
Mexican Fire Opal has a low tolerance to heat and is easily broken by sharp objects. If it is left in direct sunlight, or hot enclosed spaces, it can crack. Maintaining the water content of the opal is extremely important to the durability of the stone. Over time, opal can become dehydrated and brittle. To avoid dehydration, it should be stored away from high temperatures and frequently rubbed with light oil.
Check out some of our favorite Mexican fire opal designs for autumn:
≈ Comments Off on What Makes Polish Pottery So Unique?
Whether you delight in collecting Polish pottery for its vibrant and elaborate designs, or love it for its functionality in the kitchen, here’s a bit more about what makes it so unique:
• Each piece is brought to life by skilled ceramicists and painters in Poland according to artistic traditions dating back to the 14th century. • Polish stoneware is made with high-quality white clay which is high-fired to attain its extreme durability and then covered in a special lead-free glaze which provides chip-resistant and non-stick properties. This unique handmade process makes Polish pottery safe to place in the microwave, oven, dishwasher, and freezer. • The ornate designs on Polish pottery are entirely hand-painted. Carved sponges are used to stamp the larger shapes before fine brushwork brings each individual motif to life. The painting process can take many hours depending on the complexity of the design. • Each piece of pottery is numbered and signed by the artist who painted it. • It’s easy to clean! Polish pottery has a special non-porous and non-stick glaze which means soaking is not required after use in the kitchen.
Uno Alla Volta is proud to bring you exclusive Polish pottery straight from the source in the villages of Boleslawiec and Brzeg, Poland. Because we work directly with the artists to develop special patterns, what you see in our catalogs and on our website cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Emerald is a brilliant green stone ranging from yellow-green to blue-green. The more vivid and intense the color, the purer the stone and therefore, the higher the quality.
What Does It Symbolize?
Throughout history, emeralds have been seen as a symbol of love. Perhaps this is why ancient Romans and Greeks associated them with the goddess Venus, who was thought to symbolize love and passion. Emeralds have also been associated with wealth and compassion.
Where Is It Found?
The first emeralds were found in Egypt around 1500 BC. Today, these gems are mostly mined in Columbia, Brazil, and Zambia, but are also found in numerous countries throughout Europe and Asia, and even right here in the United States! The state of North Carolina is the only place with significant emerald deposits in all of North America.
And, of course, you can find emerald-inspired jewelry here at Uno Alla Volta! Here are a few of our favorite jewelry pieces and accessories featuring the rich color of this beautiful green stone:
Aquamarine is derived from the Latin words “aqua,” meaning “water,” and “marina,” meaning “of the sea.”
How Can I Spot It?
Aquamarine is a gem with oceanic color which ranges from light blue to dark blue to seafoam green. The purer the shade of blue, the more valuable the stone is. It has a natural clarity to it, sometimes even appearing to be transparent.
What Does It Symbolize?
As with all birthstones, aquamarine has long been associated with a number of healing and spiritual powers. As the first birthstone of the spring months, it is most commonly seen as a symbol of youth, rebirth, and hope.
Where Is It Found?
Aquamarine is found inside certain types of granite rocks. The first aquamarine gems were found in 1723, nestled deep in the mountains of Siberia. Today, it is mined mostly in Brazil, but it is also found in parts of Africa and even right here in the United States! At 14000 feet elevation, Mount Antero in Colorado has revealed some of the finest quality aquamarine gems in all the world.
And, of course, you can find aquamarine here at Uno Alla Volta! Here are a few of our favorite jewelry pieces featuring this beautiful blue stone:
One of the most common techniques used in Murano glass making is the infusion of precious metals. The distinct earthy sparkle of aventurine, the subtle shimmer of silver foil, and the classic look of gleaming gold flakes are the accents that give radiance and depth to the beads on your favorite Murano glass jewelry. This technique is very tedious, as it requires impeccable skill, a steady hand, and a sincere devotion to the craft of lampworking.
Our glass masters work very carefully when infusing each glass bead with either gold flakes or silver foil. First, a sheet of the precious metal has to be hammered until it is extremely thin. Next, each sheet is cut into tiny “flakes.” The artisan then rolls a small amount of molten glass in the metal flakes so that they adhere to the surface. This tiny chunk of flake-covered glass is then encapsulated in more molten glass, which “traps” the metal inside the bead before it is lampworked into the desired shape. As the artisan lampworks the bead, the flakes may pull apart and disperse throughout it.
To infuse a bead with aventurine, or copper crystal, our artisans first add cuprous iron and lead oxides to molten glass. The glass is then left to cool and harden for several days, which results in crystallization of the tiny copper particles. These sparkling particles are most commonly reddish-brown in color, and are responsible for the irresistible shimmer inside your favorite aventurine jewelry.
Now that you know a bit more about all of the hard work that goes into creating the infused beads on your favorite Murano glass jewelry pieces, which type is your favorite? Do you gravitate more towards the cool sparkle of silver foil, the warm glow of gold foil, or the amber shimmer of aventurine? Let us know!
≈ Comments Off on How to Care for Your Handmade Murano Glass Millefiori Watch
Murano glassmaking is one of the most renowned types of crafts across the world. Murano glass millefiori watches are timeless pieces that are created with high quality workmanship. The word millefiori comes from the Latin saying; “thousand flowers,” because it has a resemblance to a blossoming meadow. These designs are obscure floral mosaics, which bear an elegant Italian charm. It is important to take care of such an elegant watch so that you may hold on to it for many years to come. Here is how to care for your handmade Murano glass millefiori watch.
Maintenance and Care
Watches should be stored in a jewelry box to prevent from the overexposure of oxidizing environments.
Use a lint-free cloth to wipe away any smudges or dust on the face of the watch.
High temperatures of water may damage the surface of glass by producing a cloudy effect.
Use a damp cloth to gently wipe the leather band clean. Do not use too much water, which can damage the leather.
Murano glass millefiori watches are luxury jewelry pieces with Italian charm that need to be kept with special care to retain their beauty. With bands of genuine leather, these watches make the best accessories for an everyday look.
For centuries, Polish pottery has been decorated with traditional folk art patterns, most of which are the color blue. This Polish stoneware is made with high quality white clay, which is high-fired to attain its extreme durability. It is important to care for your beautifully handmade Polish pottery so that you will have it to enjoy for years to come. Therefore, we gathered a few simple tips to care for your handmade Polish pottery.
Simple Caring Tips
To avoid cracking, make sure the stoneware is completely dry before placing it in the oven or microwave.
If the stoneware is cold from pulling it out of the refrigerator, make sure to bring it to room temperature before placing it in the oven or microwave.
After removing the stoneware piece from the oven or microwave, do NOT place it on a cold surface or handle it with a wet cloth.
Soaking is not required since Polish pottery has a non-porous protective glaze.
Polish pottery is truly one-of-a-kind, as it has high durability and original design. The glaze applied to Polish stoneware provides non-stick properties, and protects it from chipping. Whether you delight in collecting Polish pottery or want a vibrant piece of stoneware with captivating designs for the dinner table, we hope these tips will keep your Polish pottery looking brand new so you can treasure it and pass it on for many generations.