Murano Glass is glass made on the Venetian island of Murano, which has specialized in fancy glasswares for centuries. Murano’s glassmakers led Europe for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass figurines to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers, as well as souvenirs for tourists.
Murano has been a Venetian commercial port since as far back as the 7th century. It is believed that glassmaking in Murano originated in 8th-century Rome, with significant Asian and Muslim influences, as Venice was a major trading port. Murano glass is similar to the 1st-century BC Greek glasses found then shipwrecked off Antikythera, Greece. Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their factories to Murano in 1291.
Murano’s glasssmakers were soon the island’s most prominent citizens. By the 14th century, glassmakers were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state, and their daughters permitted to marry into Venice’s most affluent families. Marriage between glass master and the daughter of the nobleman wasn’t regarded as misalliance. However glassmakers were not allowed to leave the Republic. Confession of professional secrets were punished by death. Many craftsmen took this risk regardless and set up glass furnaces in surrounding cities and as far off as England and the Netherlands. By the end of the 16th century, three thousand of Murano island’s seven thousand inhabitants were involved in some way in the glassmaking industry.
Today, Murano is home to a vast number of factories and a few individual artists studios making all manner of glass objects from mass marketed stemware to original sculpture. The Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) in the Palazzo Giustinian houses displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.