Murano glass making has been associated with Murano since the 13th century. It is said that glass making in Italy has been going on for at least 1000 years before this. A group of people skilled in making glass moved from the Middle East to Venice and soon became famous for their work. Venetian-Murano art glass became a trade mark and a shining example of the country's artistic skills. Unfortunately, glass making requires fire kilns. Venice in the 13th century was a city where wooden buildings were the norm and fires were very common. Because of this unfortunate hazard the government issued a decree in 1291 requiring all glass makers to move their art glass ateliers to the island of Murano north of Venice.
Murano is still a tiny community. The whole island is roughly a mile in diameter and has a population of around 5,000 people. It is made up of a succession of tiny islands linked together by bridges and canals. Its position in the Venetian Lagoon assures not only the safety of the rest of Venice, but also a calm setting in which to explore new glass-making inventions.
Within a century of its foundation as a glass hotspot, Murano glass was marketed globally, and its manufacturers are regarded the town's principal population. Among their innovations are optical-grade glass with excellent clarity, additive-manufactured polychromatic glass such as lead and tin, threaded glass with speckled gold and silver inclusions, and others. These are one-of-a-kind pieces, dating back to the late 16th century, when some Murano painters went to other nations. Things have changed a lot since then.
Murano's glassblowing method, however, is being performed today, with some of the world's top manufacturers retaining flagship operations there. Dale Chihuly, who dispatched Murano lecturers to Seattle to instruct his employees in the 1970s, is one of the artists affected by the island's past. Recognizing that credible imitators of practically every art form exist even today, the Murano certifying authority was founded in 1994, so that each authentic Murano-made glass now has a unique mark.
Look for brand names and artist emblems known to have been manufactured on the island of Murano on glass products made before this period. Because the pieces are crafted by hand, you can anticipate imperfections and a lack of ideal symmetry. Rich color combinations and glazes, as well as precious metal flecks and threads, are other hallmarks of the technique. Among the most popular designs are ashtrays, bowls, clowns, fish, vases, and chandeliers. Unsurprisingly, the internet is rife with Murano glassblower identification tips and checklists, so do some research before purchasing a pricey item. View our ‘Art Glass & Glassware’ collection.