MURANO GLASS

Many people know what Murano Glass is. It’s not a coincidence that Murano glass creations are renown all over the world. You may have already seen creations of Venetian Master glass-makers.

You may have seen them on television or maybe in art and fashion magazines. Maybe you have seen them in a jewelry store showrooms or maybe at a relative’s or friend’s house.

In other words, Murano glass is used for the most unique productions not only from Venice and Veneto but from the entire Made in Italy line. Objects and jewels of great elegance and admiration are made of murrinas.

A murrina is a glass bead with a geometric design obtained by cross sectioning a glass rod, they are then melted together to create a surface. They are sold all over the world.

The Master glass-makers’ artistry doesn’t know limits: the Venetian art of glass craftsmanship has been famous for centuries in five continents.

Let’s start from the beginning. Before I talk about the magic that Venetian masters are able to do with Murano glass, let’s take a quick step back into history. Let’s understand when the murrina was born and how this tradition found its place and prospered through the centuries in Venice.

 

Murano Glass: a tale throughout the centuries

To talk about Murano Glass’ history, we have to begin a very long time ago. Before Romans took over most of the then known world, the area where Venice rises now, had a very important commercial role. This was due to its favorable location that positioned it in the middle of an ideal crossroad, known to all the merchants that cut through the high Adriatic Sea with their ships.
In this scene, Murano glass was one of the most traded goods by Venetian merchants and time solidified this trend.

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Murano glass jewelsMurano glass witnessed a peak of popularity in the Middle Ages. In fact, the earliest documents that involved Venetian glass art are dated 982 A.D.  It is then that the glass murrina became popular.

Exactly in the Middle Ages is when glass artistry started being deemed valuable. Consequently, Venetian glass-maker masters who were at that time already traditional great artisans, saw a peak in the appreciation of their precious glass artworks.

Where did all these glass craft-work techniques originate? To put it simply, Venetian master glass-makerslearned a lot from the glass workmanship techniques used in Asia. They didn’t just copy those techniques, they developed and molded them according to their personal tastes and their abilities. It was then that Murano glass as we know it, came to be. It is a wise meeting point between Oriental techniques and Italian imagination and creativity.

no glass witnessed a peak of popularity in the Middle Ages. In fact, the earliest documents that involved Venetian glass art are dated 982 A.D.  It is then that the glass murrina became popular.

Exactly in the Middle Ages is when glass artistry started being deemed valuable. Consequently, Venetian glass-maker masters who were at that time already traditional great artisans, saw a peak in the appreciation of their precious glass artworks.

Where did all these glass craft-work techniques originate? To put it simply, Venetian master glass-makers learned a lot from the glass workmanship techniquesused in Asia. They didn’t just copy those techniques, they developed and molded them according to their personal tastes and their abilities. It was then that Murano glass as we know it, came to be. It is a wise meeting point between Oriental techniques and Italian imagination and creativity.

Murano Master glass-makers contributed, for example, to the use of different colors and the creation of items distinguished by one unique characteristic: style. Murano glass is perfect for artistic hand crafting: it is in fact a material that is extremely malleable while crafted at high temperatures. Venetian artists were then able to create the shapes and colors that dictated its world wide success.

Through the centuries, Venice developed sophisticated techniques to forge and mold glass. So much that in the fourth century the names of Venice and Murano became synonymous of high quality artistic glass. But why did Murano, of all places, become the location for this hand crafted artistry? The reason is simple: many glass workshops rose on the Island of Murano and in 1291 Venice decided to dismantle all the other glass workshops in the city - to minimize fire danger - leaving to Murano the privilege of becoming the only island where glass would be made and crafted. This is why we have been calling it Murano glass and not just Venetian glass for the last thousand years.

During the Renaissance, the artistry of master glass-makers was already well known. Murano glass was so renown that it was sought after by popes, kings and court nobles. In other words: the richest people chose the only glass that would really emphasize their wealthy status, which was the one that was made in Murano. A specialised school rose on the island and the art of glass crafting was passed on from generation to generation.

In the Seventeen hundreds the Republic of Venice was declining - its end is dated 1797 - but Murano glass was untouched by the crisis. Actually, there was a little decrease in demand but in the second half of the Eighteen hundreds this art was rediscovered and Venetian masters started being appreciated again. Quickly their jewelry and decor in murrina glass are again a symbol of elegance, prestige, finesse and design.

The centuries passed and Murano artisans still use those centuries old techniques of murrina crafting.They use them for everything: from contemporary glass art to Murano glass figurines, chandeliers and jewelry. Today Murano is where many workshops and single artists’ laboratories are located, they craft all sorts of items from those intended for mass marketing to the eccentric glass masterpieces.

What is remarkable is that still today, Murano is an expression of true art. Venetian artisans devote their passion to glass artistry, they are unwilling to serial mass produce and still use antique furnaces. This implies that every glass object made in Murano has its own unique and unrepeatable beauty that is unreproducible by any other master Venetian glass-maker. Mass production never reached Murano and everything remains at a hand crafting level as it was a thousand years ago.

 

 

Murano glass jewelrySecrets of Murano glass crafting

Let’s begin by explaining how generally speaking Murano glass is made. Glass is made of silica, a material that liquifies at high temperatures. When the glass transitions from its liquid to solid state, there is a time frame where it is extremely malleable. At this point the master Venetian glass-maker molds the object that he wants to create.

In Murano glass, other materials are added to the silica, they are necessary to keep the glass soft while its temperature lowers. For example, the more sodium oxide is present in the glass the slower it solidifies. This is an important factor for Murano glass hand crafting because a slow solidification of the glass-like matter allows a wider time frame in which the glass maker can work and mold the material.

The raw materials that a Murano artisan can add to a glass mixture are for example:
- Sodium that gives a matted look to the glass surface.
- Nitrate and arsenic that get rid of those annoying bubbles in the glass.
- Pigments that create those beautiful Murano glass colors we all recognize.
- Other matting substances that give an extra touch of characteristic opacity to the glass

Every master glass-maker uses a different formula for his glass. Each one has his own interpretation of murrina craftsmanship and has developed his own crafting techniques. The colors, the techniques and materials used may vary based on the final result that the glass maker wants to achieve. This is one of the main reasons why Murano glass is actually considered true art.

Generally speaking, Murano glass making is divided into two phases. In the first phase the fundamental glass materials are merged. This fusion takes place in special ovens and it results in a glass mixture that will be later crafted by the master glass-maker. The second phase consists of the actual glass molding, its shape is created and it is transformed into an object. This truly is the artistic phase because it is when the exquisite murrina glass creations are brought to life. The second phase includes processes that are completed when the Murano glass is cold like decorating, engraving and polishing.  

 

Source: Corte Murinna