A brief history of Murano
The island of Murano is located 3km north of Venice in Italy and has been a prosperous commercial port since the 7th Century. Murano became the centre of Venetian glass making in 1291, when glass foundries were moved from Venice to reduce the risk of fires. At that time, Murano glass workers operated at the leading edge of glass technology; for example, they were the only Europeans that knew how to make mirrors! Consequently, they enjoyed great status and privilege but were not permitted to leave the Venetian lagoon area. Perhaps understandably, the Venetian Republic were very keen to preserve and retain their unique craft, but punishment for deserters was swift and sometimes extremely harsh. The glass workers of Murano are still following their age-old techniques today and although other countries such as China and the Czech Republic try to imitate the exquisite Venetian glass, they tend to be a poor copy. In jewellery, tell-tale signs can be greater weight and less clarity - the vibrancy of Murano glass is unmistakable, appearing to glow from within.
How are Murano glass beads made?
Making the beautiful glass beads for jewellery takes an enormous amount of skill and expertise. Clear glass is melted, rolled and shaped into the basic bead shape. Then, while the glass is still soft, it is touched repeatedly onto gold or silver leaf until covered. More glass is added to envelop the metal leaf before being formed into the desired finished bead shape; spherical, heart, cube etc. The glass is sometimes clear but more commonly coloured to build up the wonderful vibrancy that is synonymous with the Murano name. The choice of either gold or silver leaf is generally made to compliment the glass colour. Silver is often used with cold colours to produce a truer more intense glass colour, whereas gold can really change the colour used in the glass to achieve some stunning results. Either way the effect is magical and the reason why Murano glass is so popular in jewellery making.