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THE HISTORY AND TRADITION OF MURANO'S GLASS


History

For centuries the handcrafting of glass has been an important economic reality for the city of Venice. The oldest document found related to the art of glass making dates back to 982. It describes a donation of glass and after the discovery of this document, the 100th anniversary of glass blowing was celebrated in Venice in 1982. Many documents from the end of the 1200’s testify the foundation of glass factories along the so-called Rio dei Vetrai a Murano, where nowadays you can find the oldest glass laboratories. Starting in the year 1450, thanks to the intuitions and genius of Angelo Barovier, a member of an ancient Murano family, there was an evolution in glass working techniques that would develop in the following two centuries. These changes brought about elevated creations and an incomparable purity in the glass. In the XVI century, Murano’s glass saw its brightest age: the techniques were perfected and the materials were fully developed thanks to the experiences of the fifteenth century. From then on, the glass masters dedicated themselves to perfecting the shape and the form. Blown glass became incredibly thin and pure, the shapes more essential and light. It was made to enrich the surfaces of European nobility. In those days there was also the presence of industrial espionage between the glass factories. Glass makers attempted to steal the secret techniques of the best producers in Murano. The Venetian Republic acknowledged the artistic talents of those masters who introduced innovative methods in glass making. They also insisted on protecting their secrets, such as the invention of the techniques filigrana a ritortoli and the filigrana a reticello. These assigned “privileges” lasted for only a certain amount of time before the methods were used by all of the factories on the island. The government also tried to limit the migration of the glass masters and their knowledge: in 1605 the Golden Book was written listing the names of noble families on the island of Murano, also known as the Glass Nobility. In the 20th century, Murano’s masters followed contemporary artistic movements, dedicating themselves to a sophisticated craft and experimentation in their own art. They respected the millenary tradition that allows Murano glass to be a unique product, prestigious and incomparable.

The Work Process

Venetian glass is made out from silica, a particular sand that becomes glass only after a certain chemical reaction. Adding sodium lowers the temperature of this important reaction. The potassium, an alternative to sodium and typical substance from Nordic countries, generates a bright glass that is good for grinding and engraving (like the English lead glass), but not for the complex work, typical in the Venetian tradition. The first mixing of materials takes place at night, and this process lasts the entire evening. To the two principle materials, a stabilizer (similar to calcium carbonate) is added, and eventually the color and opaque formula. The reverberation oven melts the materials at a temperature of approximately 1400 °C, and in the morning the glass workers find the melted materials ready to be modelled. The glass mix remains workable until it reaches a temperature of 500 °C. Those who work on the glass are collectively called la piazza, a group composed of helpers who are coordinated by the glass master. The product is worked on by expert grinders that then proceed with the smoothing of the glass and other finishing touches. The engraving process is completed in independent laboratories by very highly specialized decorators. If the final decoration requires color, the object is painted in another specific laboratory.

We believe in spreading the brand name “Made in Italy,” but more importantly “Made in Venice.”

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