Murano glassware is special in many ways – it’s incredibly luminous, amazingly crafted, and instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever visited Venice. This exquisite type of glassware has existed for over a thousand years, and since the 13th century, it has been crafted in factories on the small island of Murano. 

Perhaps because it was born in Venice, the major trading power at the time, or maybe because of its lightness and luminosity not seen before, Murano glassware became known far beyond the confines of Venice. Centuries passed since the first artisans relocated to Murano sisland by the decree of the Great Council of Venice, yet the glassmaking techniques of the local artisans barely changed. 

Today Murano glassware is not just a decorative style of choice but also a well-known collectible art. With a range of products that includes large and small vases, beautiful drinking glasses, trendy and classic chandeliers, and ornamental sculptures, Murano’s way of making decorative glass offers a diversity that appeals to a wide variety of tastes and styles. Existing at the crossroads of art and craftsmanship, Murano glassware is valued by laymen, designers, and collectors alike.

Murano Glass Artisans and Their Styles

The creation of Murano glassware is a process that can take many forms and varies significantly from one artisan to another. Depending on the techniques used and small tweaks that add personality to designs, items may come out seemingly plain and simple, monotone and minimalist, or opulent and colorful. 

Some artisans specialize in traditional techniques such as Millefiori, where cross-sections of colorful glass rods are arranged in interesting patterns, heated up, and fused to form unique and easily recognizable quilt-like patterns. Others use large furnaces to create objects in the Sommerso technique, layering different colors of glass without mixing them, and achieving interesting multi-dimensional effects that go especially well with modern interiorrs. 

Many enthusiasts seek out Bulicante pieces with regular patterns of bubbles throughout the object that take unique skill and artistry to create. Collectors often seek pieces that showcase the mastery of these techniques and hunt for specific well-known names in each technique such as Luigi Onesto for Sommerso or Archimede Seguso for Bullicante.

Acquiring Murano Glassware

For those who decide to buy Murano glassware, knowing where to buy authentic pieces is of utmost importance. Original Murano glass pieces are crafted by hundreds of artisans on Murano island. Some of those workshops dubble up as shops where customers can both see the glassmaking process and purchase the artisans’ products. Walking around Murano island, you can peek inside various workshops and factories to see the artisans at work and admire the delicate multi-step process happening between the special bench and the furnace. 

However, most artisans do not like opening their workshops to the public and prefer not to be bothered when they work. Therefore, if looking for a piece of Venetian Glass on Murano island, it is best to browse stores or reputable galleries. You can check out tiny little shops and large well-lit galleries stocked with everything from small vases to large sculptures, and determine which works best for you.

If you are not visiting Venice any time soon, browse through online sellers specializing in Venetian glass. There are multiple ones, but be careful to research each specific seller, their location, product assortment, certificates of authenticity and the quality of informational content on their site. The high price tag of authentic Murano glassware reflects the skill, time, and materials required to create each piece. 

Pieces that make good investments typically include signed works by well-known masters, especially those who are no longer alive or working, pieces crafted in complicated and rarely-used techniques such as Scavo (imitation of ancient Roman glass pieces discovered at archeological digs) or Zanifrico Latticino, and items that represent certain popular designs, such as Alfredo Barbini birds or iridescent Barovier vases. 

Many spaces will benefit from a classic Rezzonico-style Murano Glass chandelier or a bold accent piece in red or black with clean lines and striking contrast. If you would rather stay on the conservative side for interior design, you can purchase something smaller and less prominent, such as a pair of candle holders that could go on a console table, or a small sculpture for a shelf in the bedroom, or a photo frame for your desk in the office.

Identifying Authentic Murano Glass

Determining whether an item is real Murano glass or an imitation is the most important step nor only for a collector, but also for someone who is interested in acquiring a memory of Venice and a part of Venetian artistic heritage. Unfortunately, even in Venice itsef many stores sell Chinese knock-offs. Those are usually sloppily shaped, have unsightly defects, or very imperfect designs with stretched Millefiori pieces and poorly crafted details. 

Authentic Murano glassware will come with a certificate of authenticity, or a sticker indicating the mark of “Vetro Artistico® Murano,” or a label of the glassmaking factory, or a signature of the artisan. Learning about and getting familiar with Murano Glass history, techniques, designs, and famous artists wil also help. Most importantly, real Murano glass has the brightness of colors, the intricacy of shapes, and the luminosity that is difficult to craft anywhere else. Look for pontil marks on the bottom, uneven gold or silver leaf cover, and small asymmetries often indicating handcrafted quality.

Collecting Vintage Murano Glass

Collecting Murano glass is at once exciting and scary. It is always a joy to come across a unique and rare piece, to sopt a vintage item, and to go on a quest of determining its authenticity and evaluating the price. Vintage Murano glass from the mid-20th century is sometimes available at fleamarkets and estate sales and many of such pieces are valuable. This glassware has historical significance, especially specific designs that showcase top-quality craftsmanship and artistic vision. 

Collectors often look for pieces from specific periods, artisans, or techniques, such as famed Barovier & Toso’s gold-leaf workmanship or the daring architecture-inspired designs of Carlo Scarpa. Collecting is not just occasionally buying interesting pieces. It involves staying on top of the market, attending fair and auctions, and connecting with other collectors and vintage Murano Glas dealers.

Even if you never collected, it is never too late to start. Researching Murano glassware, finding interesting pieces for sale, digging into the forums and social media groups for information to understand what makes a piece valuable is an interesting quest that is both educational and exciting. Visiting Murano island and looking at how the masters work is a necessary part of the collector’s journey and will allow you to peek into the middle ages and immerse yourself into the atmosphere of competition between the artisans and the evolution of Murano Glass as an art form.