For centuries skilled artisans have honed the delicate craft of creating the finest glassware in the Venetian island of Murano, giving Murano a distinguished reputation as the center of traditional glass-blowing techniques. Glassmaking in Venice dates back to the eighth century, but it was in the early years of the thirteenth century when it became the leading purveyor of fine glass in Europe.
In 1291 Venetian glass production was moved exclusively to the isle of Murano to protect its trademark. Craftsmen were prohibited from leaving the island to protect the secrets of their trade, but were richly recompensed by being rewarded with an elevated social status. The innovative techniques developed led to Murano glassmakers being lauded as the finest producers of luxury glassware and the island gained a virtual monopoly on fine glassware production. The island’s influence waned over the years, but it experienced a revival during the twentieth century as modern glass artists returned to traditional Murano techniques, restoring Murano’s reputation as the center of glassware excellence.
The discovery of transparent cristallo Veneziano glass originated in Murano, along with esteemed glassmaking techniques such as lattimo, murrino and filigree. Over the years Murano famously produced stunning chandeliers, reflective mirrors, wine glasses and goblets, and figurines. Today specialist Venetian glassware is so coveted for its beauty it inspires imitations, thus original pieces from Murano bear the certification ‘Vetro Artistico ® Murano,’ recognizable by its red and blue markings. Only glassware created on the Venetian isle is certified with the Murano trademark, to protect it from mass produced imitations.
Murano is still synonymous with fine glassware and visitors to Venice should take a water taxi to the isle of Murano to shop for genuine items and to visit a glass factory to admire the glassblowing techniques still practiced. The Murano Glass Museum, established in 1861 in the Palazzo Giustinian, showcases impressive display of glassware through the years. The regular addition of contemporary pieces ensures the collection continually expands. The museum also hosts regular exhibitions. Glass making demonstrations can be appreciated at the Mazzega factory, the Colleoni glass factory and the Rialto glass factory. The famous glass ateliers of FerroMerano, Berengo, Pino Signoretto, Salviato and Venini can be explored. In addition to its reputation as a glass making center of excellence Murano is also famous for engraving artisans who work on completed glass pieces. Shoppers for fine pieces will be enticed by an amazing array of glassware ranging from glass earring and pendants, through to glass vases, perfume bottles, candlesticks, sculptures and mirrors.
Perhaps the best time for those appreciative of beautiful Murano glassware to visit the island is during the Venice Glass Week, an annual international festival celebrating the artistic creation of glass. The festival focuses on Murano glassware. Amidst events such as workshops, screenings and themed evenings, it features exhibitions of stunning glassware. During the inaugural Venice Glass Week there was a ‘Light-Blowing’ exhibition and a ‘Five Glass Blowing Techniques’ exhibit, alongside exhibitions showcasing the work of individual glass artisans. The festival draws attention to the unique specialism of Murano glass and the historical importance of the Murano renaissance.