Murano Glass -
Also known as Venetian Glass
Venetian glass, thought to have been made for over 1,500 years. It’s production has been concentrated on the Venetian island of Murano since the 13th century. Today Murano is known for its art glass, but it has a long history of innovations in glassmaking in addition to its artistic fame. It was literally Europe’s first major glassmaking centre. During the 15th century, Murano glassmakers created “cristallo”, which was almost transparent and considered the finest glass in the world. Murano glassmakers also developed a white-coloured glass (milk glass called “lattimo”) that looked like porcelain. They later became Europe’s finest makers of mirrors.
Murano and its history of glass making
It was founded between the 5th and the 7th century, and it experienced its major development after 1291, when glass furnaces were moved there from Venice due to the high fire hazard.
Murano became the manufacturing centre for Venetian glass, exported in large quantities to all of Europe. Venetian glassmakers developed secret recipes and methods for making glass. The concentration of Venice’s glassmaking on the island of Murano enabled better control of those secrets.
This prevented the spread of Venetian glassmaking expertise to potential competitors. Glassmakers were not allowed to leave the island without permission from the government. Leaving without permission, or revealing trade secrets, was punishable by death. Locating the industry on a single island also made it easier for the government to monitor imports and exports.
Murano reached its high point in the 16th century, when it had more than 30,000 inhabitants. Glassmaking continues but on a considerably reduced scale. A record of this aspect of Murano’s history is found in the Museum of Glass Art in the Giustinian Palace.
What makes Murano Glass special..
Murano’s special glassblowing process is over a thousand years old. It has been re-discovered by the local artisans from the ancient Roman glassware at the end of the first millennium and continuously developed and enhanced upon ever since.
Murano 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. Very thin layers of real gold or sterling silver are often added to the glass mixture (also known as gold or silver leaf), along with various minerals to give glass its vibrant colors and designs. For example, copper is used for Avventurina mineral-like sparkles, zinc is added for white color, cobalt for blue, manganese for violet, gold for red. The resulting liquid glass mixture is then mouth-blown and/or hand-crafted by master glassmakers in a series of elaborate steps using special techniques such as Millefiori, Sommerso, Reticello, Filligrana, Bullicante, and many others.
production of murano glass
The master glass-maker uses only basic tools to shape, polish, and perfect the glass. Most of these tools have been developed in the Middle Ages and both the tools and the glass-blowing process changed little since then. This method of glass-making results in unique creations with rich colouring and beautiful, patterns and shapes, which are real artworks. For this reason, high-end Murano Glass is called art glass. This glass is made not merely by craftsmen, but by artists of glassmaking, called “maestros” in Italian. Even though beautiful glassware and crystal has also been created in other places around the world, none of the glassware still being produced has such a rich history and so much artistic value as Murano glass.