Murano Glass – An Interesting History of Raw Materials Used to Make It

Venice, a city in northeastern Italy, is world-famous for its picturesque location, architecture and of course, artistic glass objects, especially made on the island of Murano. The glassware produced on this island stands above others in terms of the elegance of products, the craftsmanship of glassmakers and the wide variety it offers. As far as the quality of Murano glass is concerned, you can notice exceptional difference in transparency, homogeneity, decolourisation, and range of colours.

Since the beginning of the glassware production in Venice in the ninth century and its subsequent shift to Murano in the thirteenth century, the Venetian glassmaking industry has seen both prosperity and adversity in equal measures. While the industry was at its peak from fifteenth to seventeenth century, there was an era of sharp decline and the following rise in fortunes in centuries thereafter. In the twentieth century as well as in recent times, the art of Italian Murano glass has witnessed a sort of renaissance.

Before delving into the raw materials used in the ancient Murano glassware production, let’s take a look the characteristics of glass that set it apart from other materials, particularly metals. The specialty of glass lies in the manner of its solidification. It gets converted from the liquid state at temperatures as high as 1400 degree Celsius to the solid state very slowly. Due to this long gap during which the glass remains fairly malleable (paste-like), the glass masters are able to create stunning shapes of their choice. In the end, the object will have the rigidity of the solid and the transparency of the liquid at the same time.
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Murano glass is generally obtained from the melting batch or mixture that consists of raw materials, primarily silica sand (around 70% by weight), soda ash and calcium carbonate. Other raw materials that a glassmaker might add to the mixture include sodium to create an opaque glass surface, nitrate and arsenic to get rid of bubbles, and colouring substances. For your information, the materials that facilitate the lowering of temperature are known as ‘fondenti’ (flux or melting agents). The mixture is then introduced in a crucible of refractory material contained in a furnace where a melting cycle is carried out up to a temperature of about 1400 degree Celsius.

Silica

Until the fourteenth century, sand was the primary source of silica. However, this silica source was marred by problems like complicated and variable composition. So, in a quest for better-quality silica source, quartz pebbles took the place of sand from the middle of fourteenth century. These pebbles were particularly sourced from the river Ticino. From the eighteenth century, sand quarries of Istria and Dalmatia (sands of Pula and Lissa) were also used.

Flux

When it comes to the flux or melting agent, the foremost choice had always been Venice soda or sodium carbonate, contained in the ash obtained from the combustion of coastal plants. The ash can be according to the type of plant from which it comes, sodium or potassium. In particular, the ashes used in Venice came from the family of coastal halophytic plants (Salsola kali, Salicornia, etc.). However, to preserve the quality of Murano glass, a decree of the Council in 1306 prohibited the use of the ashes of continental plants such as ferns, owing to their many drawbacks like variations in compositions and greater quantities of colouring agents. Hence, the Venetian glassmaking industry started importing soda ash from Syria and Egypt. The Egyptian import being less pure was used for low-quality glass only. From the seventeenth century, the soda ash was imported from Spain and southern France. In the nineteenth century, the industrial production of artificial soda was begun.

Stabilizer

Until the end of the eighteenth century, glassmakers had no idea of the importance of stabilizers such as calcium carbonate. As a matter of fact, they unintentionally introduced this compound in the batch with the flux. In the ash like the ‘”alum Syria” or “alum bowl”, calcium carbonate was present in percentages almost equivalent to the sodium carbonate.

Cullet

Cullet is actually the glass that is smashed and prepared to be melted again. It is a part of glass recycling process. Even in ancient times, and especially in the Middle Ages, the cullet was widely used by Venetian glassmakers to facilitate the merger. It was largely imported from the East and often recast in the Venetian furnaces.

Other Raw Materials

•    Lead “brusado” was employed to produce the leaded glass. The lead oxide (PbO) was obtained by heating the metallic lead.

•    The “grepola” (tartar barrels) consisting of potassium tartrate was used in small quantities as such or calcined in colored glass or as a flux.

•    Manganese was used as a bleaching agent and in greater quantities as a colorant; the most valuable was the manganese of Piedmont.

Some Raw Materials Used as Colourants

•    Crocco (iron oxide) was used to obtain yellow and green/blue colour in the glass.

•    Ramina red and black (copper oxide) was used for blue, green and red.

•    Manganese was used for violet.

•    Sulfur was used for yellow-amber.

•    Zaffera (mixture of sand and Cobalt oxide) was used for blue.

•    Silver was used for yellow.

•    Gold was used for ruby red.

Some Raw Materials Used as Opacifiers

•    Mixture of lead and tin: Opacifying is obtained by roasting a mixture of lead and tin metal.

•    Animal bones calcined: Opacifying is obtained by calcium phosphate used in the sixteenth century.

The aforesaid raw materials were an integral part of Italian Murano glass production for the last eight centuries. Today, the Venetian glassmaking has gone through several revolutionary changes which will be explained in another post. Till then, you may browse through an amazing selection of genuine Murano glass table lamps, chandeliers, sculptures, vases, plates and jewellery at Originalmuranoglass.com and order some masterpieces at competitive prices from there.

Buying Authentic Murano Glass Items Made Easier

There are several age-old crafts that have stood the test of time to entice both connoisseurs and general public into temptation even today. And, only a few people would argue that Murano glassmaking is the flag-bearer of such timeless crafts. Since its transition to the small island of Murano from Venice some eight centuries back, this finest art of glassmaking has witnessed many ups and downs, but is still able to hold its position of exclusivity. Italian Murano glass is well-known for its diversity of products across the world. From tiny necklaces, pendants and earrings to big vases, sculptures and chandeliers, the choices are available aplenty for buyers. But, the important question here is: how can you ensure that you’re buying an original Murano glass item?

For many individuals, a trip to Murano is incomplete without the purchase of an object of its renowned glassware. The island is literally swarmed with shops selling products to match every wallet. The list of items includes photo frames, clocks, goblets, bead jewellery made via lamp work technique, plates, contemporary sculptures, and flamboyant chandeliers.

Like the popular adage ‘all that glitters is not gold’, not all Italian Murano glass objects on sale are authentic. To become a proud owner of an original item, all you need to do is to look for the Murano mark of excellence called Vetro Artistico Murano or signs by the glass artists and purchase from a trusted seller. To protect genuine sellers from shops selling cheap, duplicate objects mass-produced in other countries like China, the Murano glassmaking community has brought forth this mark of excellence which is found on all authentic glassware. The mark portrays a glass making tool on a plate and the words ‘Vetro Artistico Murano’ inscribed in a golden finish.

Coming back to the huge range of Murano glassware on offer, you can come across products in all kinds of sizes and styles, from time-honoured to modern-day artifacts.

Sculptures: Murano glass sculptures can be found in petite decorative items for residences to massive showpieces. There is Horse Head sculpture executed and signed by the artist Alessandro Barbaro. It is made using the technique of glass warm modelling and embellished with glass grit. Other notable creations include bulls, birds, lovers and abstracts made with techniques such as lamp work, chalcedony, etc.

Vases: Buying a Murano glass vase may bring you a pleasant problem, thanks to the ample variety on sale. Choose from coloured and carved vases that can make a wonderful addition to any place. Blown and cold glass cut vases featuring a blend of multiple colours are very popular among buyers these days.
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Jewellery: The use of exceptional beads is the hallmark of Murano glass jewellery. There is a wide array of necklaces, pendants and earrings to select from. Glass beads in eye-catching hues are handmade with aventurine quartz.

Plates and dishes: Murano glass plates and dishes can prove to be the finest tableware you’ve ever owned. Displaying murrina and sbruffi decorations, these handmade plates can cast a spell on the onlookers. Vivid colours, designs and shapes of these items won’t let you take your eyes off them.

Chandeliers: Intricate Murano glass chandeliers in both traditional and modern styles have always been one of the favourite objects among buyers. They are available in various flowery decorations and catchy shades.

All of these and many more products can be purchased over the Internet as well. Trusted online shops like Originalmuranoglass.com can deliver genuine and competitively priced Italian Murano glass items to any location around the world. They are home of many famous glassmakers like Alessandro Barbaro, Andrea Tagliapietra, Pino Signoretto and Salvadore. Just visit these web-based stores and experience the quality of their craftsmanship!

Murano Glass Jewellery – Unmatched Craftsmanship of Historical Relevance

When a craft is over eight centuries old and climbing up high on the popularity chart even today, then it certainly holds great historical significance. We’re talking about one and only Murano glass and the unique glassmaking techniques involved in it. There is no dearth of glass made items in our world, but what is made in the small island of Murano, situated near Venice, Italy, is simply unmatched, whether it is quality, beauty, variety or craftsmanship. An elite group of glassmakers on this island handcrafts a wide array of fascinating products, starting from Murano glass sculptures, vases and jewellery to goblets, plates and chandeliers.

Though all the aforesaid glass art items are equally popular, Murano glass jewellery featuring a variety of striking designs and colours has created countless ardent lovers across the world. There are lots of Murano glass necklaces, beads, pendants and earrings to select from. Handmade using original Venetian glassmaking techniques like Aventurine, Murrine and glass fusing, these ornaments have been the most desired items among females for centuries.

Murano necklaces made of glass beads are offered in a broad range of shapes, sizes and shades. All beads are painstakingly selected and threaded on a string of a necklace embellished with precious stones and metals. Elaborating more on glass beads, they have been in style since the origin of Murano glassmaking practice in 1291. Various glass artists have used their creativity to produce beads in different finishes such as crystalline, multihued, gold threaded, enamelled, milk glass, etc. The secret behind having beads of varied colours is the blend of various metals in accurate proportions. For instance, a blend of copper and cobalt creates Murano beads in aquamarine finish.
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So, these handcrafted beads contribute to the production of eye-catching Murano glass necklaces that women of all ages and social classes adore worldwide. To meet specific tastes and preferences of buyers, exclusive online Murano glass shops offer necklace collections like quartz aventurine, tribal glass jewellery, long-size jewellery, candy necklaces, and emotion necklaces.

Regarded as splendid diminutive pieces of art, Murano glass pendants are another popular jewellery variety created by gifted Murano glassmakers. Their huge range includes drop pendants handmade with the technique of glass fusion, heart pendants for the romantics, murrina pendants made using melting glass technique and decorated with glass mosaic, cross pendants with gold decorations, etc.

Murano earrings made using Sommerso (or submerged) technique are not to miss out on either. This Murano glass jewellery variety renders a layered look which is achieved by dipping a glass item of one colour into molten glass of another colour(s) several times. Hence, the effect is just brilliant and the earrings can transform the appearance of the wearer.

Murano jewellery can take your beauty to the next level. Hence, apart from Murano glass sculptures and vases that perk up your home decor, you can opt for the necklaces, pendants and earrings to beautify yourself in an exquisite manner.