What is Murano Glass and What’s so Special About it?

Crystal palace chandelier
Crystal palace chandelier

Many people have heard the name of Murano, often associated with something Italian, stylish and old. But do you really know what is Murano glass? And do you know what’s so special about it?

Read on as we present you some facts and history surrounding this magical timeless piece of art and craft.

Into the Light

Chandeliers, that is, multi-limbed lights that hang from the ceiling, can provide an exquisite lightning for every environment.

Chandeliers received the shape in which we know them at the end of the seventeenth century. Therefore, two hundred years before the invention of Thomas Edison’s first marketable incandescent lamp in 1879.

They were once considered as one of the most important civilizing steps of mankind, the triumph of man over darkness.

A Memory of Light

Initially used as a candle holder, a source of light that evolved from animal tallow and beeswax to paraffin, the chandeliers were custom made, majestic pieces of metal or quartz, which illuminated the nobles’ immense dining tables.

Beginning in 1676, they became more accessible when English master George Ravenscroft, after adding lead oxide to glass, created a crystalline, quartz-like, highly refracting, more easily manipulated material.

The new material was soon widely adopted for the production of chandeliers in Murano. Many of which can be obtained directly from MuranoDirect.com, both as a homage and worthy heir to the first chandeliers initially manufactured there.

What is Murano glass?? Murano glass is technique, history and location
What is Murano glass?? Murano glass is technique, history and location

The Glassblower of Murano

Starting in the 1940s, Barovier & Toso were the first to bring back the opulence of classic Murano chandeliers with more modern designs, also influenced by Art Noveau and other art, design and decorative art trends of the time.

But Barovier’s history does not actually started in the 1940s, instead, it has been manufacturing specialty glass for over 700 years, since 1295, year when the house was founded.

Contrary to what many think, Murano is not a glass brand, but the name of an archipelago of seven islands, joined by bridges, 1 km away from Venice, on the Adriatic Sea.

my friend the Murano glassmaster
my friend the Murano glassmaster

It’s widely known that in 1291 the city’s mayor forced local glassmakers, already famous throughout Europe, to move to the islands to avoid fires in what was then an urban center built mostly of wooden buildings, and thus protect the secrets of glass art.

This situation achieved both advancements in their chandelier and glass making manufacturing, as well as more secrecy which in turned was monopolized in order to increase profits.

Important and old names of master glassmakers subsist in place, such as Seguso, Venini, Barovier & Toso, Cenedese, Mazzegga etc.

Soon, the best and more renowned glassmakers began obtaining noble titles and building small fortunes which had the dance elbow to elbow with both local and foreign royalty.

As it usually happens in poorly regulated industries, these glassmaking houses began over profiting and over charging for their art.

While this ensured top quality in their craft, it also ensured many new comers would not be able to learn or equally profit from their avant-garde skill.

So, several glass maker apprentices soon fled to the UK and other remote places and started building their own glass making houses. While at the same time taking some of the Murano secrecy with them.

What is Murano Glass?

Murano glass is one part technique, one part location and one part history.

While most people think of Murano as a brand, it actually has more similarities with champagne.

Champagne derives it’s name from Champagne, France. The internationally known province in northeast France, immortalized by its sparkling white drink.

For centuries, the Murano name has remained as the top name in luxury glass making.

There have been several efforts from local and regional governments to create a Murano seal that’s given to all glass made in the Island.

Nonetheless, this has turned not very fortunate and has provoked the same alienating mistakes as in the past.

Giving the Murano seal to some glassmakers, while at the same time not being totally able to fully certify the inherited Murano craft.

Anyway, this is it for now. Please read our previous post on Modern trends in Murano chandelier selection.