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What is Venetian Glass?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Venetian glass is a glass product of particularly high quality, traditionally manufactured on the island of Murano, which neighbors Venice. The fame of Venetian glass is due to carefully guarded techniques which were developed during a period when glassware was still riddled with imperfections and was extremely difficult to make. Venetian artisans perfected the creation of glass, keeping their product famously clear and free of occlusions. The glass is still well known today, and artisans from all over the world travel to Murano to learn Venetian glassblowing techniques from masters of the craft.

In Venice, glass making artisans were highly prized due to their unique skills and the specialized techniques for making particularly high quality glass that they developed. In 1291, rising concerns about fire within the city of Venice drove the city to ban glass making within Venice itself, moving the manufacture of the city's famous glass to Murano instead. On Murano, the secret of how to make Venetian glass was closely guarded; artisans were not allowed to leave and set up shop elsewhere. Ultimately, of course, the techniques used to create Venetian glass spread to other European cities, which took up the manufacture of the high quality, delicate glassware that had made Venice famous.

Venetian glass is famously pure; the glass is totally clear, although the artisan may have introduced a pure, strong color to the glass. In some cases, Venetian glass is solidly colored, while in others, artisans have created a smoky effect with one or multiple colors. Venetian artisans were also able to make milk glass, glass with flecks of precious metals, enameled glass, and realistic imitation glass gemstones in a period where these techniques were unheard of in other regions. They dominated the glass market with their highly superior product until the 16th century, when other nations began producing comparable glassware.

Like all glass, Venetian glass starts with a base of silica which must be mixed with a flux and melted. The flux agent slows the solidification process of the glass, allowing the glass maker to manipulate it to satisfaction. Once molten, the glass can be used to form the well known Murano glass beads, chandeliers, and tableware which have kept Venetian glass famous for centuries. Glass makers on Murano still make glass in the traditional way, and visitors can see a glass museum with numerous samples of beautiful Venetian glass in addition to an overview of the history of glass.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By aviva — On Aug 05, 2011

@ladyjane - Your swan sounds beautiful and priceless. You must have been a very good employee that year. Venetian glass like any other glass is breakable.

Some of the heavier pieces such as the body of your swan are rather strong and less likely to break as opposed to say the neck or head. They can chip however, so take care not to drop them on a hard surface.

The Venetian wine glasses are very thin and extremely fragile but the Murano Beads are quite strong and durable just like a marble. But even glass marbles have been known to chip.

By ladyjane — On Aug 04, 2011

My boss gave me a small Venetian Glass swan figurine as a Christmas gift one year that is absolutely stunning.

The body is very thick with milky colored wings but the head and neck are very thin almost crystal clear. I was wondering because of it's thickness, if Venetian Glass is less fragile than other types of glass products.

By Sierra02 — On Aug 03, 2011

@wizup - That's a very good question and the answer is quite simple. There really is no difference in the glass pieces. It's just because they originated in Venice and then were moved to Murano.

I believe the beads are referred to as Murano beads because that's a technique that was developed after the glass blowers were transferred from Venice.

It wasn't until some time after that, that they began decorating the glass beads with fine metals and jewels such as gold and diamonds. In my opinion though, they're beautiful just as they are.

By wizup — On Aug 02, 2011

What is the difference between Venetian glass and Murano glass? I often see the pieces referenced in both names.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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