The History and Tradition of Glass Making

By: Patricia Furstenberg

Glass and glass products may be taken for granted now, but they were a luxury item a very few people could afford, sometimes in the 3000's BC when its manufacturing history started in the Middle East.

The glass manufacturing grew during the Roman Empire and spread from Italy to all countries under Roman jurisdiction. During the times of the Venetian Republic the glass craftsmanship flourished as a result of good contacts with Byzantine Empire. In 1291, fearing fire and destruction to the city's mostly wooden buildings, or maybe for better protecting their secrets, the glassmakers were ordered to move their foundries out of Venice and into the island of Murano. For centuries afterwards the glassmakers of Murano have held the monopoly on quality glassmaking, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. But mostly what made Murano's glassmakers so special is the simple truth that they were the only people in Europe who knew how to make a mirror!

Today, the artisans of Murano still make use of their century-old techniques, hand-crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Technology and tradition in Murano glassmaking

One of the attributes that distinguish glass from other materials, such as metal, is the way it solidifies. It is based on this specific glass feature that the murano manufacturers stage their unique technique of glassmaking. Working the glass in this specific frame of time requires talent, skillfulness, know-how and sensitivity, which only a few expert glassworkers have mastered today.

The making of a murano product follows a working cycle of 24 hours. The mixture of raw materials is loaded two or three times into the initially empty pot. The first load goes in about 5pm, at a temperature of 1250?C to 1300?C. The last at 9pm to 10pm and afterwards the temperature is raised to 1400?C to drive out any bubbles from the liquid and to let the glass become homogeneous. At about 2am the melted glass is ready and the temperature is lowered to 1000?C to 1100?C. At this temperature the glass will, at 7am, have the viscosity necessary for working. Afterwards the blowing and the manipulation with iron take place, thanks to the malleability guaranteed by the continual contact with the fire.

The glass rod is the starting point to make the glass beads. It is made by pulling both ends of the single color glass bubble, until the right diameter is reached. The rod can measure up to 100 meters long, and is then cut into smaller sections of approximately a meter each, which are then bound in bundles. The solid glass rod is used to make really beautiful beads with the 'flame' technique. Over the heat of a flame the glass melts and creates a thread that is wound around a fine metal rod. This way a sort of hot glass ball is produced that is worked and shaped using pincers or bronze moulds to give the bead the desired shape (round, square, star, etc.). Once it has cooled down, the bead is placed in acid that dissolves the copper rod and leave a hole in the bead.

Various and important techniques can be used for the flamed beads, some of the most interesting and typically 'Venetian' are those made with gold or silver leaf, which are achieved by forming the first liquid glass which is then rolled over a very fine leaf of 24 carat gold leave or pure silver; with the heat, the leaf breaks giving a cracked effect that is always different. The glass can then be covered with a second layer of transparent glass to make the bead shinier, while if it is left without the second layer it has a less polished look.

Millefiori or thousands of flowers

Millefiori is a polychromatic, colorful design as thin as a straw. Exactly when the very first design of millefiori was created is not known, but the archeological testimonies place them during the Alexandrine and Roman times.

The colors of the millefiori beads are created one at a time. First a hot ball of glass is pressed and pulled by the glass manufacturer into a certain shape like a flower or a star or a geometrical shape, and then the rod is covered in layers of different colors of glass.

Another very important technique is that of applying pieces of Millefiori rod to the main nucleus. Also known as Millefiori or Mosaic beads, they are made by applying fine pieces of rod to the hot glass core so that the entire surface is covered. The bead is then heated a second time so that the murrinas weld together. The result is that not two Murrina pieces are the same.

Murano - Hand-Blown Glass Jewelry

'Beauty is a quality of a person, object, place, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, affirmation, meaning, or goodness. The subjective experience of "beauty" often involves the interpretation of some entity as being in balance and harmony with nature. This leads to powerful feelings of attraction and emotional well-being.' (wikipedia)

Just like one can't be totally objective when looking at two beautiful women and freely choose one of them as the most beautiful one, or honestly decide upon the purest ray of sun or the most perfect rainbow, one will never find two pieces of murano jewelry the same.

Mirroring the freshness of light, the fluidity of water and the intensity of fire, the murano jewelries please both the eye and heart. The foil of gold or the bits of silver ads to their noble allure as the eye catches a glimpse of them through the rich color of the glass.

Endowed with an unique design fit for an unique woman, a cherished occasion or for an out of this world partner, the murano jewelries are the perfect gift. The proud wearer exhibits a piece of jewelry unlike any other piece in the entire world.

Article courtesy of Alluring Creations CC,

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