There is not just one type of Italian Murano glass, there are many different variations of the complex art which varies in technique and combination. One important thing to note is that Italian Murano glass is completely handmade, just like Venetian masks are, and requires a lot of skill. The terminology surrounding Murano glass is never ending, but without diving in too deep, here are some of the main types of Murano glass that you will probably recognise if you look a little closer.
Filigree (filigrana) sees narrow rods of glass are seen incorporated on the surface of vessels or freestanding designs and can be extremely delicate. This type of design can be very challenging and requires high levels of patience and skill to get right. Retortoli and reticello are the two most common sub-types of filigree each with a different take on Filigree glass.
Retortoli filigree has a twisted effect on the thin rods of glass which is achieved by stretching and rotating the glass as heat is applied. Reticello on the other hand refers to the type of decoration that is incorporated into the glass, this may be a lattice or cage work effect.
Avventurina features coloured glass with iridescent particles, including gold, copper, chrome and other metals, and has been included as part of the Murano process since the early seventeenth century. This style is also known as pasta stellaria, a nod to its star-studded appearance.
Murrina and Millefiori
Murrina involved sliced canes of glass which are used to expose transverse patterns which can be used to create repeating elements. Murrina has been made since ancient times but Venetian glass makers have since developed and perfected the art, renewing an interest during the Renaissance era.
Millefiori translated into English, “thousand flowers”, is a type of Murrina. This type of design involved layers of sliced rods that are used in a flowerlike design on a clear or light blue disk of glass. This type of glass is especially popular in pendants and earrings.
Glassmakers in the fifteenth century not only created glass pieces with deep hues but they then went on to enamel them and apply intricate gilding with paintbrushes. This technique is considered really challenging due to the enamelling process needing to be fired at a high temperature from a second source, which could put the glass at risk of deforming.
Bedwork and Jewellery
Murano glass techniques naturally lend themselves to the making of jewellery and beads with some Murano glass makers considered as specialists in the area. Some of the more master craftsmen of Murano jewellery create glass paired with silver and other precious metals.
Incised or engraved glass
This extremely painstaking art involves creating a fine-lined decorative design on the glass and can create some of the most beautiful designs even on the most delicate Venetian glass. As Murano glass is so thinly blown, craftsmen must be careful not to cut too far into it and have the design delicately lie on the surface. Engravers today use different tools and methods including different metals and stones to create lives of varying width and opacity.