5 September 2014

Murano Glass; Story of an Island!

We had such tremendous fun researching the intricacies of blown glass for our previous blog that we ended up expanding and outgrowing our blog post space and ended up leaving out Murano glass. 
Here we are picking up the thread of the unique story of Murano glass. 

Murano is an island which consists of a series of seven smaller islands in the Venetian Lagoon. The islands which are linked by bridges are famous for blown glass production of a particular type with an international reputation for durability and high aesthetic quality. Crafting everything from art glass and glass jewellery, Murano’s glass makers held the monopoly of high quality glass making in Europe for centuries. 

Byzantine craftmen arrived in Venice after the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. In 1291, the Venetian Republic, fearing fire of its mostly wooden buildings, ordered glass makers to move their foundries to Murano. Murano glass makers subdivided into niches and developed a very tight community with distinct houses. Typically, each Murano glass house employed numerous sellers, servants, and cutters. 


Blue Murano bubble glass, offered by Totos Jewellery & Antiques

Millefiori beads from Murano, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
1950s Murano glass necklace with birds and leaves, offered by Linda Bee

By the fourteenth century, Murano glass makers had gained in reputation, and soon became some of the most prominent figures of the Republic enjoying many special privileges. Servants of the glass houses studied the works of the great masters and learned the secret arts. When the Ottomans took Constantinople in 1453 more glassworkers arrived in Venice.

At once a marriage of Islamic and Western glass blowing styles, initially, it became famous for glass beads and mirrors. Developing or refining many technologies Murano glass artisans gained more control over colour and transparency. Aventurine  glass (glass with threads of gold) was invented in Murano as did enamelled glass, crystalline glass, multicoloured glass, milk glass and imitation gemstones made of glass. 

Murano glass sold to aristocrats, wealthy merchants, and heads of state, and during its heyday it produced the vast majority of Europe's mirrors and chandeliers. By the 17th century, Murano had even developed a patron saint for glassblowers, known as St. Anthony Abate.

1950s Murano glass necklace with fruit and leaves, offered by Linda Bee

Murano decorative glass

Murano artisans employed a unique cooling process, by which they maintained liquid glass in its pliable state for a long time to create a viscous but malleable paste. They did this by slowly and carefully cooling the glass admixture. A craftsman created a mold of a durable material, usually baked clay and sometimes wood or metal. The mold comprised at least two parts, so that it could be opened and the finished product inside removed safely. Although the mold could be a simple undecorated square or round form, many were in fact quite intricately shaped and decorated. The designs were usually carved into the mold in negative, so that on the glass they appeared in relief

Glassware collectors often can distinguish historical pieces from individual Murano houses.

A selection of Murano glass beaded necklaces, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
Murano silver bracelet, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
Murano millefiori bead earrings, offered by Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

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