When we read “Made in Italy” we immediately think of quality goods, whether that’s clothing, pasta, or other goods, however this phrase is most important to be seen on one specific item, and that is the Murano Glass.
The Murano Glass is one of Italy’s most premium goods that complement any home. Coming in countless figures, everyone with a luxury taste for home décor has at least one of these Italian heritage glass figures.
So… what is really that special about it? The short answer is many things. The long one is that this eccentric glass is made so uniquely, that each piece is one of a kind. There aren’t any machines that are creating it, everything is hand-crafted, making each piece unique in its own way, an imperfect perfection so to say. Another specific thing about all the figures is their color, which is gotten by mix of minerals with the glass, giving rich colors that reflect the light in a magnificent way. But the real special thing about the Murano Glass, is how it’s made… Is that only real masters of Murano can make it, and this hand-crafting mastery is passed on from generation from generation, from father to son, and only masters from Venice and Murano can really create the figures.
So, putting so much emphasis on the hand-crafting creation, I think it’s not fair if we don’t dive deeper into this topic, exploring the vast creation methods.
Firstly, this glass is made of silica, soda, lime and potassium, and of course it requires incredible accuracy. Then after the mix is ready, it’s heated up in a special 1500-degree Celsius furnace, until it reaches a liquid state. As we said, to get colors, the masters mix minerals that are added at this step, along with thin layers of real gold or sterling silver that are also known as gold or silver leaf. As for which colors do the minerals give, copper is used for sparkles, cobalt for blue color, manganese for violet, zinc for white, and many other minerals resulting in other colors. Also, we must put a disclaimer, by saying it’s a hand-crafted mastery, the masters don’t really use their bare hands as the glass is very hot coming out of the furnace, but they use tools that have barely changed from the middle ages, so no hands are harmed in the process.
Talking about the techniques of making Murano Glass, they are divided in two categories of processes, primary and secondary. The primary processes include everything up until the glass being melted in the furnace, meaning mixing the materials and getting the colors. The secondary are the shaping processes of torching and fusing when the craft is still hot or carving and sculpting when the piece is cold, or “a freddo”.
So some of the techniques are:
Aventurina – This process involves adding micro particles of copper, gold, or chromic oxide to molten glass after which, during the cooling stage, results in the separation of the particles from the molten mass. This produces an affect whereby the fine particles are suspended in the glass and appear like gold flecks when they catch the light. To obtain the best result, the avventurina must cool very slowly. One way to obtain this is by switching off the oven and let it cool off over several days. The name can have two meanings – adventure or ventura (fortune or chance)
Bullicante – Evenly spaced air bubbles are inserted into the glass that become gradually larger or smaller. This widely used art glass technique was especially popular with Murano glass artists during the 1950s.
Battuto – This process means struck or beaten, and as its name, that is how it looks. Masters use a grinding tool to make this glass look like a fish scale or to give the hammered metal effect. The grindings are made to differing depths and with overlapping irregularity.
Murrina – A very old technique, ancient so to say, rediscovered in Venice during the 15th century, however dating back to Roman times. This technique is used for creating psychedelic floral patterns, and it requires a lot of patience, involving tubes of multi-colored glass, heated and melded together.
Alessandrite – A technique that creates figures whose color changes with different lighting conditions. Thus giving artificial light produces warm tones, florescent light gives blue tones, and natural light implies smooth lavender colors.
Doublè – A technique that produces golden or silver decorations inside the glass. It requires putting multiple layers, meaning engraving the decoration on the initial glass, putting gold or silver on it, and then another layer of transparent glass is put on top of the decoration.
Fumato – The figures created with Fumato give the impression of having smoke inside of the glass. The smoke is given by exposing the glass to the smoke of the oven, that causes particles of unburned carbon and ashes to bond to it.
Millefiori – The word itself means “a thousand flowers” and is created by using multiple glass rods with a single flower design visible on the surface, after which they are all combined.
Sommerso – Or “Submerged”, is a multi-layered figure that is created by getting one colored layer of glass dipped into another molten glass of a different color.
Cameo – Is one of the most complicated techniques that require a true Murano expert. It’s created with two glass layers, which from the second layer there are designs being raised, giving it a charming look.
Lattimo – Also known as milk glass, coming from the Italian word “Latte” which means milk. It looks like a fine china porcelain and is usually opaque and milky white in color.
Pulegoso – This technique incorporates many bubbles with different sizes within the figure. It is done by pouring petrol in the molten glass to make it bubble over.
Ballotton – A technique that results in cross-relief pattern of lines. It involves a metal mould that gives the effect. Inside the mould there are small square-capped points (needles). It needs careful handling during the blowing and shaping process to leave a geometrical pattern.
There are many other techniques that are unique and used to produce remarkable products, so if you are interested in seeing some of the results of these techniques, head to a high quality Murano Glass web-store and see all the products.