If, like myself you are a collector of art glass items then you will no doubt be well aware of the beauty of Murano Glass produced on the island near Venice. Or perhaps you have just arrived on this page to learn how to identify Murano glass.The answer to this is not a simple one and there are a few factors you will need to take into account.
Quality, I would say should be the main criteria, so let’s look at what constitutes quality. Experienced collectors will have learned what quality means due to handling so many pieces on possible visits to Murano, browsing in stores, visiting antique fairs and specialist fairs.
It’s over 700 years since the glassmakers in Venice had to move to the island of Murano to avoid causing a fire in Venice.
700 years is a long time and as you would imagine there wouldn’t be very much that they would not have learned over all this time.
The culmination of these handed down skills, new challenging technics learned and the competition between one another during this period, probably go a long way in making the items so unique.
These skills and techniques, which I lay out below, when carried out to a high level are a sure pointer to what are authentic Murano items.
The 3 Steps in Murano Glass Identification
There are clues to look for in the identification process. Sometimes the type of metal used or even the style can be recognized as being made by a certain maker.
There are signed pieces certainly which help in the identification, although these are few and far between and not really the best answer. Probably the specimens found which still have their paper labels intact will be the most helpful in learning how to identify Murano glass.
Just keep in mind that signatures and labels when present shouldn’t be the only criteria in determining where a piece was made. Fake signatures and labels can be added to an item at any point by those trying to deceive and they should only serve to verify your thoughts about the source of manufacture.
Experience is always the most reliable method when attempting to identify examples. For those who are just starting out the following three features to look for when assessing whether a piece is Murano or not should help.
Even if it turned out after purchasing the item it had never been near Venice, if these qualities were still present you would still have a very noice piece anyway.
How to Identify Murano Glass – My 3 Tips
- Determine the technical difficulty of making the piece.
- Has it been created with a lot of care and attention?
- How good is the quality of metal used?
What we need to understand is that the leading makers of glassware throughout the world, not just Murano, have a reputation to look after. If they don’t do this properly by creating quality items then consumers would stop buying and the eventual closure of the firm would be inevitable. Just like any business, quality needs to be maintained if they are serious about remaining in the marketplace.
Does the Design Include High Technical Skills to Recreate the Item?
Design plays a large part of how successful a product line would be in the any industry. Very often the artisan will be creating their masterpieces from drawings provided by designers of note.
When the design of a piece requires a lot of delicate work, final polishing to a high quality finish or the need to get the colours perfect, certain skills need to be in place to get these things right. That’s very often where the fake falls down and you should be able to spot the difference.
All of the top company’s in Murano have shops or outlets stocking their wares and browsing these stores will educate you on what quality looks like. If you ever visit these outlets, especially the better shops, ask if you can handle the pieces. Depending on the store you visit, you may well be able to just walk around freely examining pieces as you go. Most of all look closely at the item and imagine how difficult it would be to create and do it well.
Has the Piece Been Made Well with no Flaws?
Let’s say you are visiting an antique fair and your eye catches a stunning vase. The dealer is selling the vase as a Murano vase but as yet, you’re not too sure how to identify Murano glass. This is a very common problem mainly due to the fact that the majority of items were never marked. Even most of the pieces that would have had a makers label will have lost their labels through constant washing.
If the price is very expensive then I would personally look for quality of design and very good craftsmanship being present. If you find that these qualities are not present and you question why the piece is quite roughly made, don’t accept excuses like, “Oh the glass is old”.
Even old glass made by quality craftsmen was very well made. Quality is quality and that’s why these pieces are sold at premium prices. Roughly made items are not quality and the good glasshouses would rather smash the piece if it didn’t come up to their high standards.
Remember these artisans have their pride and the last thing they would like, is the word out about a bad range of wares they have produced. The island in the Venetian lagoon isn’t very large and their reputation is important to them as it has been over the centuries.
What is the Quality of Metal Used?
If the item I was examining was rough to the touch with unfinished edges and just altogether looked like it was poorly made, I would not consider purchasing it. It may have looked like something that interested me from a distance but this closer examination would have made up my mind.
There are many look-a-like items available, some made in a similar fashion but by a lesser maker, without the real skills and using cheaper materials. At the time it was made it was never meant to deceive as it would probably have been targeting a market with less disposable income.
The problem arises when these items appear for resale on the secondary market and those new to collecting who have never handled the better quality version become confused. Often after seeing attractive items in books and auction catalogues these images can stick in your mind and when something similar crops up the brain can be tricked into believing it is the same.
Of course not every piece will have all the above qualities. They will still be Murano pieces but made using less time consuming artistic skills. These bowls, vases and animals can still be well made in attractive colours and indeed still be very collectible, which they are. If starting out in building a collection, these pieces would make an excellent start in understanding more about this glass type.
See some Murano glass pieces here.
Collectors Need to Know How to Identify Murano Glass
There are many techniques and terms used when describing venetian glassware. The more common terms you will come across in alphabetic order will be, Bullcante, Cased, Gold Leaf, Latticino, Millefiori, Silver Leaf and Sommerso.
There are many more but I think they could be better served if covered in another post. As would some of the better known makers.
Signed pieces made in Murano have been produced although they are in the minority. Stuck on labels have been a big help to identify Murano glass when still attached to the item. But even identifying these stickers is another skill that needs to be acquired to find out which company used what label.
If you intend to build a collection of the better pieces, bear in mind the points you have learned here in how to identify murano glass. Look out for pieces that would need high technical skills to produce. Satisfy yourself that it has been created with a high degree of skill and is made in a good quality metal.
If not it could still be Murano made remember, but perhaps not by any of the leading companies. Or a simple souvenir piece made quickly for the tourist market and not a serious piece of art glass.