Murano, a small island to the north of Venice, has been the center of the Venetian glass industry since 1291 when the Venetian Republic ordered the glassmakers to move their factories and workshops to this island. Murano glasswork has been renowned for centuries for its craftsmanship, styles and color. Murano glassmaking techniques and the consummate skill of its artisans – found their way into glass jewelry making.
The creation of Murano jewelry begins with the manufacture of colored glass canes, an activity which is (in itself) a significant challenge to any glassmaker since the chemical compounds involved in making colored glass are extremely sensitive and must be mixed with unerring accuracy. Aquamarine, for example, is achieved through the fusion of cobalt and copper during the manufacturing process; ruby red, on the other hand, requires a gold solution as a coloring agent for the glass. Other materials are used to create the different colors used in Murano jewelry.
Craftsmen use glass canes in creating their beadwork and jewelry, using various techniques.
Also known as the torch and mandrel technique, lampworking is one such technique which has been in use since the 1700s. Under this method, Murano glass tubes and canes are heated until they reach a molten or near-liquid state and wrapped around a metal rod until the desired shape is achieved. This is supplemented by the application of several layers of colored glass as well as gold or silver leaf, applied carefully in order to achieve the effect the artisan wants. The bead is then slowly cooled and removed from the rod, leaving a hole in the bead which is used for stringing it.
Chevron or Rosetta Beads
Murano is also known for Chevron or Rosetta beads which are created from a hollow glass cane and six layers of glass in different colors that have been defined since the 14th century – white, blue, white, brick red, white and finally, blue. After the colors have been layered, the beads are milled to produce a pattern consisting of 5 concentric, 12-pointed stars. The canes are then chopped into beads marked by a red, white and blue pattern.
Filigreed Beads are actually blown-glass products. They are made by craftsmen by melting the glass canes. Afterwards, they are picked up with blowpipes through which air is pumped (usually using the glassmaker’s own impressive pair of lungs) to form spirals, stripes of colors and other shapes.