Frequently Asked Questions regarding Murano Glass Beads

Below are some questions which we frequently receive regarding Venetian and Murano Glass Beads. If there are other questions you have on our Venetian Glass beads or Murano Glass Beads, please submit your question through the Contact Us at the top of each page.

What is the difference between Venetian Beads and Murano Beads?
There is no difference. The glass used to make the beads originates in Murano. However, Venetian Glass has been used to describe the glass coming from Murano for centuries and since Venice is much more widely known than the island of Murano, people continue to refer to it as Venetian Glass, Venetian Jewelry. So beads and jewelry made from beads produced in Murano are sold in the stores in San Marco (the famous square in Venice) as Venetian Glass. It's a matter of marketing terms and that Venice is much wider known than Murano. When the furnaces were moved from Venice to Murano in 1291, the Venetians were specifically granted by the Doge the right to make beads and other small glass objects.

What are the beads made of?
They are about 70% silica (sand). Venetian beads are made from a type of glass known as soda glass with a COE of 104 degrees which is a measurement of the expansion in heating and cooling. The beads start with glass rods which have been made in Murano. All of our beads are made from the famous Moretti Canes who make filigrana canes, millefiori canes and the solids and translucent colors (now Effetre Industriale).

Why are they priced per bead?
Our beads are priced individually as we find our customers like the freedom to choose the number of beads they purchase, based on each of their designs. It also helps our designers with their pricing of pieces of jewelry, and there are never lots of left overs! In some cases, where we specify a quantity, they will be sold as indicated.

Will they break easily?
Think of marbles you may have played with as a child. The round beads are quite sturdy. The longer skinny beads and shapes with points or delicate designs are more fragile. As with all jewelry it is best to treat it gently and since it is glass, well it can break.

How big are the holes?
Traditionally, the size of the holes measure slightly less than 1mm. This is similar to the size of holes in pearls. Most of our beads (up to the size of about 16mm) are handmade on copper mandrels of 1mm, which cools to slightly less. Some of our larger beads have larger holes as a stronger (larger diameter) mandrel is needed for the extra time required in the fire. Our line of PerlaVita (Pandora style - large hole beads) run about 5mm. We produce these on steel mandrels in order to maintain the shape of the hole throught. By special order (in quantities over 1,000 pieces) we can produce beads with larger holes.

Are all beads made on copper mandrels?
Today most of the production of Venetian beads are made on the copper mandrel. However, the copper mandrel was introduced in Murano in the 1920s by the Moretti family and hailed as a cost saver to the industry. Prior to the "discovery" that they could etch out the copper mandrels, the beads had been produced excluively by the use of metal mandrels coated with a lagoon mud. Today we use stainless steel mandrels for many of our silver foil beads or beads with gold foil exteriors, both of which are subject to burning when subjected the the Nitric Acid used to remove the copper. (And now we know that the etching process and the acid are not good for the environment and require specific methods of recycling. So in the future, more and more will be produced with the metal rods and "bead release" as it is called in the US.

Are all Murano Glass Beads Annealed?
The production beads are usually placed in vermiculite after flash annealing (an annealing process in the flame) to cool down slowly. Annealing ovens are used on some of the larger pieces and all our lampwork beads are annealed. The lampwork beads generally have more intense workmanship and take longer to produce. In production beads, you expect some breakage but our more expensive lampwork beads, must be annealed as they may take up to 45 minutes to make one bead while a production bead is made within a minute or two. 

Why are the bead different?
Mainly because they are not made by machine and human made products always reflect the slight variances. As with all articles made by hand, the sizes and shapes will vary. It depends on so many variables, they are all within a range, but no two will ever be exactly alike. This is simply not possible with handmade lampworked beads. These variations are not imperfections or rejects, simply that they are made by hand.

Why is it called Lampwork?
It is called lumè in Italian and means that the beads were worked over a flame. Today the flame is supplied by natural gas to generate the heat required to melt the glass. Many traditional beadmakers continue to use the gas alone, while some have acquired newer torches which mix gas and oxygen to produce a higher heat. Different heats are required to make certain beads. Our section called "Lampwork" are made at a heat of about 200 degrees hotter as it allows for detail work, while the beads such as our fish beads and beads with gold exterior require a lower heat so to prevent burning of the gold.

What gives the beads their sparkle?
Avventurina which is a colored glass containing irridescent particles, usually copper or chrome, crystallized from the coloring agent used in the glass. The crystallizing process occurs during a lengthy cooling of the molten glass in a special glass vessel. The process was accidentally discovered on Murano about 1610-25 and the family aquired an exclusive arrangement to produce this decorative discovery. Early documents also refer to avventurina as pasta stellaria. 

We also handmake our own line of Dichroic Beads which get their sparkle from the dichroic.

What is used in Gold Foil and Silver Foil Beads?
Small squares of tissue thin gold foil 24kt gold and .925 sterling silver are used. The whitegold foils is known in Venice as "Platino" and is the same as in jewelry, it is an alloy of gold and other white metals. This the same type foil which is used in applying to statues, architecture and other gold decorated items. The bead is started on the mandrel and then quickly this molten small center of the bead is rolled over the tissue thin foil. A final coat of clear of molten translucent glass completes the bead. Because the gold is inside the bead, it will not peel or chip away.

NOTE: Beads with the gold exterior simply do not have the final coat of clear glass and with time and wear some of the gold or silver will wear off. This is not a defect, it just enhances the overall effect of the bead and is normal.

How do you care for glass beads?
Because the process of making beads is essentially a chemical process, it's best to give the beads a good bath before working with them. This way you will assure that there is no residue left on the beads. This also makes them sparkle and shine. Soap and water work quite well for glass to clean it. No need for stronger solutions.

Why are there rough edges around some of the holes in the beads and how can I fix this?
The beads are handworked on a mandrel. Sometimes little bits of glass extend onto the mandrel, known as "stringers" this is a natural occurrence. A beaders helper - a small round file - available through most beading stores will help you rub the edges to prevent them from cutting your threat. Or use a little very fine sandpaper (400), but be sure to keep the bead wet while sanding it or you will loose the shine.

What is considered normal variation in Murano Glass Beads?
It is best to demonstrate some of the variations in Venetian Beads, please click on the link to see Bead Variations. It is normal for some gold to extend on the outside of the beads, picturing that a round bead is rolled in the foil then the shape is formed, and that in trying to keep the gold foil from the outside, it is also possible that the gold or silver foil does not extend to the complete end of the bead. The ends of the beads whether they be cubes, squares, tubes, hearts or ovals are subject to having an uneven ending. We recommend, bead reamers and very fine sandpaper to smooth these off. Then of course beadcaps can hide the uneven endings.

Will the sharp edges of the bead cut my threads or wire?
Like pearls, the edges of the bead are sharp and can eventually cut cotton or silk thread, and especially the stretch cords. Wires with plastic coating outside are more sturdy and less likely to be cut. This is probably why the traditional method of stringing beads in Venice is like pearls with individual knots between each bead, that way if one cuts, you do not loose the entire strand.

Can I special order Venetian Beads?
We do special orders and generally we can produce any bead \or shape we carry in any of the decorations we produce. Special orders are only made in manufacturing quantities (2,000 minimum) due to the amount of coordination required to produce the beads. Special orders require up to 3 months for production. You will be provided a sample for approval and thereafter there are no cancellations or returns of special orders. A 50% deposit is required at approval of the sample.

Do you have a printed catalog?
We do not have a printed catalog. We receive beads weekly and they are added to the web as quickly as possible. We also sell out of beads weekly and remove them from the web. While we know that everyone enjoys a catalog to sit and look at the beads, it is impossible for us to keep one current due to the overwhelming popularity of the beads.

Can you tell me where you buy beads?
Sorry, this is company proprietary information. We have spent about 23 years developing our team of bead makers. As you might imagine, this has been a costly as well as lengthy process. We have more than 40 different bead making teams (pendants/specialty products). Many of our bead makers speak no English and some only the local dialect. So in addition to developing sources, we have spent considerable time learning the languages. Some of our products have taken over 2 years from concept to production. We work very hard to bring you the best of Venetian and Murano beads.

Can I visit a bead factory in Venice?
Currently there are no beadmaking facilities open to the public in Venice or Murano. Most of the work is done in small facilities, few of the bead makers speak English, and there is no room for tours. You can, however, visit demonstration glass factories to watch glass being blown (usually a small horse or other animal), which can be found all over Murano or your hotel can arrange tours for you. We invite you to view our short film clip from an actual studio in Venice where you can see how the beads are made. 

If you are on some of the guided tours from cruise ships or bus trips, you may be taken to a "Murano Glass Furnace" where there are sometimes demonstrations of bead making so that tourist can see. NOTE: These are not real factories nor are the beads made in these conditions. These are for tourist viewing only, though in theory the demonstrations are quite accurate.

California Prop 65 (The below provided by Swarovski™ relating to the settlement by the lead manufacturers in the 1990s.)

Attention California residents. Proposition 65 Warning: 
Consuming foods or beverages that have been kept or served in leaded crystal products or handling products made of leaded crystal will expose you to lead-a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. You may return this product for a full refund within 30 days of receipt.

(Please note this relates only to Swarovski Crystal sales to California residents and is due sole to concern over the lead content in the crystals. This does not negate our 15 day return policy stated elsewhere.)
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