What is Murano Glass? Murano Glass is a soda ash glass manufactured in Murano, Italy a small island about a 10 minute boatride from Venice. Venetian Glass has been produced on this island since 1292 when the furnaces in Venice were closed.
There are several versions of the closing of the furnaces in Venice. One is that the furnaces were moved from Venice to Murano to protect the formulas for making glass as the Venetians were the first to produce a crystal clear glass. The second is that the Venetian Glass furnaces were moved to Murano to protect Venice from the possibility of fires. In those days the furnaces were fueled with wood and presented a great fire potential. Nevertheless, when the furnaces were moved to Venice, the Doges decreed that the Venetian beadmakers had the right to use small lamps (torches) still fueled with wood to produce their beads. Today there is one factory in Murano which continues to produce the canes used in production of Murano Glass Beads and a second factory on the mainland near Venice which is relatively new but producing the same type of soda ash glass canes.
These beads became known worldwide as Venetian Beads. Even today we produce our beads using the same techniques as were used in the 11th Century. Each bead is handmade using these Murano glass canes and working over a torch. We use 24kt gold foil and .925 Sterling Silver in our beads to produce the color effects. We work with avventurina which is suspended particles of copper to give a bit of bling to some of our beads. Our dichroic beads incorporate 21st Century technology in an old world beads producing a new art technique.
Popular Kinds of Venetian Beads:
Millefiori Beads : Known as thousand flowers, lace beads or mosaic, these Murano beads have been popular since those early days. The Venetian bead is made by first gathering a small ball of clear or matching color transparent glass, then rolling the ball over small slices of the millefiori cane or carefully placing them on the ball. The bead maker continues rotating and evenly heating the bead until the millefiori slices are completely formed into the bead.
Sommerso Beads: Sommerso means submerged and is a description of how this bead is made, small flecks of color, often aventurina (aventurina is the Veneziana spelling, while avventurina is the Italian spelling) are suspended inside transparent glass. It is a simple Venetian bead, usually less expensive but very popular.
Fiorato Beads : Decorated with flowers, as fiore means flower in Italian, this word means small flowers. The bead can be made in any technique, gold foil, silver foil, sommerso, however on the outside there will be a small flower which is drawn using molten stringers of colored glass. Often there are also decorations on the exterior of aventurina piping. Venetian Fiorato beads require more skill than sommerso for making.
Gold Foil, White Gold and Silver Foil: Murano Beads made by first making a small ball of the glass and then rolling the molten glass ball across thin sheets of 24kt gold foil, 24kt white gold foil or .925 sterling silver. The bead with this foil exterior is then completed by gently melting on top of the foil transparent colors of Moretti Murano glass. The 24kt gold foil under the colors gives it a rich glow, enhancing the color, while the 24kt white gold foil gives the bead a softer shade of color, refined and warm. Using .925 sterling silver, the true color of the glass is brightened and becomes crisp. The white gold is an alloy with 18kt gold foil and white colored metals, the same as in fine jewelry.
Blown Beads: The blown beads are the only beads made in a real Murano glass furnace or in small laboratories using "glory holes". They are made using a technique called filigrana the glass blower first takes a blowpipe and rolls over canes of colored glass giving the striping in each bead. They may be finished in spirals, or straight striping, and may be balls, or teardrop shape or our very popular pennies which are balls which have been flattened. The Venetian Blown beads may also be made in lampwork technique, or perle a lume (in Italian). In the case where they are made in lampwork, they begin with a larger cane of the Moretti glass which they melt into a soft ball on the end of a small blow pipe. Our blown Venetian Glass Hearts are made in this fashion, while our other Blown Beads are made in the filigrana technique.
Dichroic Beads : Our Venetian Dichroic beads take a long journey to reach you. The glass begins as sheets in the Moretti factory in Murano. These sheets of glass are exported to Los Angeles, California where high tech equipment applies the coatings under vacuum. A final trip back to Murano and our beadmakers incorporate tiny chips of the dichroic into the traditional Venetian beads producing a marvelous mixture of old world style and modern technology. The dichroic beads are individual - no two ever alike and held in the sunlight will appear different as a result of the coatings. They are spectacular and unique. VenetianBeadShop.com introduced these Venetian Dichroic Beads working with their beadmakers in Murano.
Lampwork Beads: Many people do not think of Venetian Beads as Lampwork, however, lampwork simply means that the beads have been worked over a flame. This has the same technique for thousands of years, only the energy source has changed. All beads made in Venice and Murano are lampwork beads. Venetian beads have been associated largely with the production styles which have been sold for the past thirty to forty years. However, in researching the history of beads, you will find that for centuries, the Muranese and Venetians have been making beads with the dots now associated with lampwork. Visit our Lampwork bead section and see some Venetian Lampwork Beads.
Furnace Glass: Since most beads are made from the Moretti (and now a new company just outside Venice called VetroFondo) our Furnace Glass Beads are different in that they are made by real glass blowers in real Murano Glass Furnaces. The glass is different from the softer Moretti glass, even though the composition is still soda. The glass used in this furnace is more like pyrex in that the glassblowers can blow these to very thin walls and that each bead is annealed in the oven overnight insuring that all stresses are relieved. This makes for a very strong bead. We use the zanfirico method for many of the beads. All the canes used in these beads are made on the premises of this furnace.
Whatever the style of the bead or the technique used in making it, Venetian beads are popular and valued in jewelry. It's the mystic of that beautiful island, it's strong people and the sense of style we have all come to know as Venetian Beads or Murano Beads.