The first evidence of glassmaking activities in Venice dates back to 982 A.D. Towards the year 1000, under the Venetian Republic, known as la Serenissima, all the kilns in the city of Venice were moved to the small island of Murano in the northern part of the lagoon to eliminate the possibility of fires destroying the city, and also to be able to protect the secrets of this process through its isolated geography.
The master glassworkers devised new and complex techniques such as filigree, incalmo and ice effect. The formulators created chalcedony, lattimo, aquamarine and ruby red while the decorators specialised in painting polychrome glass and diamond tip engraving. Thanks to these special procedures, Murano glass reached such a degree of purity that it earned the name of “crystal”, as an analogy with rock crystal.
Starting in the year 1450, thanks to the intuitions and genius of Angelo Barovier, a member of an ancient Murano family, there was an evolution in glass working techniques that would develop in the following two centuries. These changes brought about elevated creations and an incomparable purity in the glass. The government also tried to limit the migration of the glass masters and their knowledge: in 1605 the Golden Book was written listing the names of noble families on the island of Murano, also known as the Glass Nobility.
Nowadays on the Island of Murano it is still possible to find practically all the typical processes created and developed here over the course of centuries.
Venetian glass is made out from silica, a particular sand that becomes glass only after a certain chemical reaction. The first mixing of materials takes place at night, and this process lasts the entire evening.
To the two principle materials, a stabilizer is added, and eventually the color and opaque formula. The reverberation oven melts the materials at a temperature of approximately 1400 °C, and in the morning the glass workers find the melted materials ready to be modelled. The glass mix remains workable until it reaches a temperature of 500 °C.
Those who work on the glass are collectively called la piazza, a group composed of helpers who are coordinated by the glass master. The product is worked on by expert grinders that then proceed with the smoothing of the glass and other finishing touches.
The engraving process is completed in independent laboratories by very highly specialized decorators. If the final decoration requires color, the object is painted in another specific laboratory.
The glass blowing technique was discovered in the First century B.C. on the oriental shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This endures as the most important event in glass history. Particularly in Venice, hand glass blowing remains a privileged technique that produces high quality products. Murano’s masters have developed, starting in the Medieval Ages, an extraordinary ability to model and have invented new ways of making better shapes, always more and more sophisticated. Of all the techniques the most important is the filigree: in its both ways “retortoli” or “reticello”, which were born in the XVI Century, they recreate the effects of a net inside the glass itself.
This ancient technique, even older than the glass blowing, was rediscovered in the XIX century after almost two thousand years of not being used. Using a pre determined drawing, single colored tiles or sections of colored glass sticks are combined in the oven. This process allows the worker to obtain really brightly colored glass.
Glass lampwork manufacturing has its origins in Murano island, several centuries ago. This technique allows to model a glass cane, heated up by a flame, to create beads, rings and small objects of rare beauty. The Master can mix different colour glass canes and enrich them with precious materials, such as Gold or Silver leaf, or unprecious, such as avventurina or Murrina glass pieces, to generate several colours and effects and magic transparencies. Glass lampwork manufacturing is the hand-crafted technique par excellence.
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