Murano (Venetian) glass: the making and its characteristics

Murano (Venetian) glass: the making and its characteristics

Murano is a wonderful island that has been guarding the secrets of a unique and inimitable artisanal craft for centuries. Let’s discover the Murano glass jewels together, and in particular the rosaries and crucifixes made by the expert hands of the glassblowers.

Murano is one of the most populated town in the seven islands of the Venetian Lagoon. Its islands are situated along the Marani Channel, divided by channels and connected with bridges. The whole area is part of the Venice municipality, and in particular the Venice-Murano-Burano municipality. The particularity of Murano has been the artisanal glassmaking for centuries, famous and renowned all over the world.

History of the glassmaking art in Murano

The Venetian glassmaking art was probably originated by the Roman art of the Upper Adriatic. Since ancient times, that area was the stage of commercial trade between the Western and the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean. Already in remote times, glass was one of the most precious materials among the many treasures coming from the East. The Venetian glassblowers learned the use of the sodium tempered glass from the Eastern people, which is particularly suited for hot works. What is actually only Venetian is the intuition of the endless artistic possibilities of that malleable material, which can be easily colored and the colors last over time. They added the aesthetic taste and artistic sensitivity to that, developing an unrivaled glassmaking art since the early medieval age. In particular, Murano glassmakers have dominated the market in this activity since the XIII century. The State of Venice, in order to prevent fires, decided to concentrate the glassmakers in this area.

Given the particular structure of the Venetian Lagoon, it was necessary to import all materials from the beginning, that is wood, vitrifying silicium and soda for flux. The inhabitants of Murano made their technical and artistic skills available for the purpose.

Since the Renaissance, Murano glassmakers were commissioned any type of objects, which were destined to embellish the palaces of all Europe, and not only. In 1400, the objects produced here were only for artistic-aesthetic purposes. In 1450, the invention of crystal boosted Murano glassmaking even further, and the request for glass objects grew dramatically. Specialized painters worked on crystal glass and experimented fusible colored varnish. Crystal glass was in fact blown transparent and colored afterwards or left natural. Its lightness and fragility required lighter decorations, with varnish or gilded dots, and great mastery.

In the sixteenth century, Murano glassmakers began decorating glass by carving it with diamond or flint points, and began producing ice glass, which looks cracked on the outside.
In the same century, the first glass decorated with pens appeared, where the milk-glass was enveloped with ‘combed’ threads in festoon patterns thanks to a special tool.

At the end of the XVI century, three thousand out of the seven thousand inhabitants of the Murano island were glassblowers. This monopoly brought them many financial and social benefits. For example, they were allowed to carry swords and could benefit from some immunity, but for a long time they were not allowed to leave the Republic, in order to preserve the secret of their art. The study and research never ceased. Besides the studies to perfect the quality of glass, new types of working were gradually introduced. Besides the already mentioned crystal glass, they were: enameled glass, glass worked with gold threads (aventurine), and multicolored glass (millefiori). They even began making glass precious stones, as amazing as the real ones.

Murano creations

During the Baroque period, also milk-glass object became very famous, which were compositions based on silicates, tin and lead that were called milkwhite due to their color, particularly suited to decorate baroque houses. Other appreciated and popular techniques were aventurine, where the vitreous mass was enveloped in copper threads, and filigree, decoration technique where the milk-glass or colored glass were hot worked with sticks in order to create thin threads.

Many glassmakers were called to work in other countries, contributing to the prestige and fame of such unbelievable art.

With the fall of the Republic of San Marco in 1797, glassmaking went through a period of crisis, but started again in the second half of the XIX century and never stopped.

Murano glassmaking

Murano glassmaking is complex and requires many passages.

Glass is made of silicium melted at high temperature. The right moment to work it is the short time before it goes from liquid to solid. That’s when the glass is soft at the right point, and the artisan can shape and model it. The glassblower can add other substances to help the glass melt, and thus helping the modeling process. The sodium oxide for example, slows the solidification process down, allowing more time for the artist to complete his work. Sodium makes glass opaque, while nitrate and arsenic eliminate all bubbles. Substances called flux allow the silicium to soften at lower temperatures.

Murano glass crosses

The main technique to work Murano glass is blowing. Silicium dust melts at about 1600 °C. Before the glass begins solidifying, the glassblowers model it by blowing into a stick to shape it as they want. The passages that are carried out as ‘hot work’ are called ‘First stage‘. Then comes the ‘Second stage‘, which involves all those techniques that are carried out in a non-hot environment, such as coloring, carving and grinding.

In our online store, you will find a wide variety of wonderful glass crucifixes, all of them handmade in Italy. They are glass crucifixes created according to the ancient technique of the master artisans of Murano. Many have a modern style, made even more unique and exclusive by the choice of the materials and the care in the working.

Murano glass jewels

Among the multitude of products that can be made of Murano glass, a special mention goes to jewels.

At Holyart, we are particularly interested in the wonderful Murano glass rosaries, which you can find on sale in our online store. The beads of these rosaries are made of real Murano glass, or Murrina style glass, which is obtained through a particular working technique that melts monochromatic or colored vitreous sticks that are later sectioned horizontally, or by uniting pieces of glass of different colors.

Holyart Murano glass rosaries are precious and characterized by bright colors and high quality. You can find the mastery of the glassblowers and the typical Murano style in each bead. You can choose among the many types of working to find the perfect rosary for you, or as a gift for a beloved one. It will surely be a special and appreciated gift. Each Holyart Murano glass rosary comes with a guarantee of provenance label.

Murano glass crosses

In our online store you will also find a wide variety of wonderful glass crucifixes, all handmade in Italy. They are made according to the ancient technique of the master glassblowers of Murano. Many of them have a modern look, made even more unique and exclusive by the choice of the materials and the care in the working.