The art of Venetian glass comes directly from the Roman of the high Adriatic, but the real development occurred in the Middle Ages, when art and handicraft became more and more elaborate. In 1291 The Republic of Venice ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano Island, in order to protect the palaces of the city from fire hazard. Due to this move, Murano’s reputation for glassmaking was born. Throughout the centuries, the art of Murano glass has a rich and complex history that has seen the creation of various techniques, reflecting tastes and trends of the Venetian and European societies. Today Murano is the home to factories and workers who carry on techniques acquired during the millennial history of glass.
Used by the merchants as currency of exchange since the 15th century, Venetian beads are obtained thanks to a previously prepared material, the glass rod, which depending on how you employ it, originates “da canna” beads and “da avvolgimento” beads. The first take shape directly from perforated barrels that are cut and finished on grindstones and/or hot molded, while the second are created through a melting process using the heat of the flame. The flame glues the melted glass of the barrel around an iron rod, which results in an impressive variety of patterns and colors.
One of the most important and more widely used material in the realization of venetian beads is the aventurine. Aventurine is a brown pâte de verre with shiny, tiny particles that comes in form of blocks. It is composed of an iron percentage that, after a complex and adventurous (thereof “aventurine”) processing, crystallizes in reflective tiny foils because of the cooling process. Aventurine was invented in Murano in the 17th century and it is still used today by the glass-makers in many different ways, grinded under the press in different gauges (“pestaccio” o “spolvero”) or stretched in “vette” (thin glass wires used for decorations).
SILVER LEAF/GOLD LEAF
The gold leaf is traditionally made by the “battiloro” (goldbeaters), who realize it by beating gold bars until reaching sheets so thin to be almost transparent. The gold leaf and the silver leaf are used in the processing of “submerged gold” and “submerged silver”.
The gold leaf, silver leaf or colored granolithic glass is laid on a glass nucleus and later covered with more transparent glass.
Crystal is a clear, colorless glass obtained through discoloration by the action of manganese dioxide, through purification of the melted ash and special procedures employed in the melting process. Discovered in the middle of the 15th century, crystal comes in form of a colorless glass particolarly suited to complex processings that need long time handling by the Master Glass Maker.
Revolutionary technique dating back to the first century b.C., thanks to the execution speed, the glass blowing technique allowed the spread of containers made of glass among lower classes. This technique was invented in the near Mediterranean East and it developed in the Islamic, roman and venetian glassworks. With the invention of flameworking glass technique, a new craft-guild arose, the one of the “supialume”, who made beads and mouth-blown objects using oil lamps onto which they blew air with bellows.
Invented in Murano in the first half of the 16th century, the complex working of “filigree” blown glass objects requires the use of crystal rods containing vitreous colored threads in smooth or spiral design. The two traditional types of filigree are the “reticello” (netted), with a thread net inside the crystal wall, and the “retortoli”, with threads twisted into a spiral pattern. New types of filigree have been created in Murano in the last decades.
The “murrine” rod is obtained by placing sections of polichrome glass rods next to each other and melting them together in the heat of the oven; it is used in many different processings, among which the processing of the “mosaic” bead. Once the “murrine” rod is obtained, it is cut in sections and the perlera (a woman working glass beads) pours melted glass around an iron rod, thus creating a “soul” on which a certain number of pre- heated sections is placed. When the heat of the flame makes the composition soft enough, the perlera will model the “mosaic” bead with the appropriate plier.