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My journey with jewellery has always been focussed on designing around colour first. Not content with sapphires and other coloured gemstones, it was love at first sight when I first saw Venetian (Murano) glass. Today you’ll discover why the endless possiblities of Venetian glass in fine jewellery is so seductive.

This glass has been produced since 1291 on the island of Murano, Venice, the romantic HQ of Italy. Its no coincidence that the quality of the glass produced here was born during the Renaissance period, the zenith of the Venice trading route along with the will & force to keep the skill on the island.

Although its popularity has risen and declined through the ages and competition has emerged, the provenance and romantic history of Murano, the emergence of new techniques and artists has evolved Venetian (Murano) glass into a serious contender in modern jewellery.

Venetian glass production Murano

Murano Island & Grand Canal, Venice

© 2017

The island of Murano is about a mile across the water from Venice and Amurianum was its original name. Used as shelter by refugees escaping from barbaric invasions in the 5th Century, the island’s port of Sant’Erasmo became an important trade port during the 7th & 8th Century’s.

In 1291 the glass makers were ordered to move their furnaces to Murano from Venice to reduce the fire risk to the many wooden buildings.

After the 13th Century Murano came under the jurisdiction of a Venetian mayor, but continued to have its own Grand Council. It had a Golden Book, in which were entered the names of its original families, who enjoyed special privileges including allowing a Veneto aristocrat to marry the daughter of a glass master without losing any of his claims to his noble titles.

Eventually Murano grew reaching its greatest splendor in the 16th Century.

“Glass makers were treated like royalty but were never allowed to leave Murano”

Just as in Venice, Murano too could coin annually and exports flourished from the 14th Century. They quickly gained a reputation for glass beads and mirrors and within fifty years the island’s glasswork lost its utilitarian character and had become a fully fledged art form.

Because of Murano’s importance, its artisans had severe political restrictions despite being treated like royalty. Venice did not require a man to belong to a glassmaking family as a condition for learning the art. However, the glassmakers were forbidden to emigrate from Venice on pain of confiscation of all their possessions. However some did manage to flee setting up factories in Northern Europe.

Glass rods for venetian glass production
Venetian glass vases
venetian glass bead making
Venetian glass beads

Ancient Venice 1573

Simon Penagenti

Independent until 1924, Murano boasts a coat-of-arms which is a cock with a snake in its beak and a fox on its back, symbolizing surveillance, shrewdness and prudence. Murano is currently home to approximately 6,000 Muranese residents.

Venetian glass cabochons (no holes) and beads have unlimited colour possibilites and shapes. Along with the addition of 24kt gold flake, aventurina and other embellishments, the glass is a canvas only limited by imagination and masterful skill which still requires handwork. This makes it particularly exciting for fine jewellery which is always seeking new colour and form away from traditional diamonds and precious gems.

Jewellers like Elizabeth Locke have been significant influencers in bringing venetian glass into fine jewellery creating collections which is appreciate in value and are highly collectable.

It is important at Vermilion that we support this incredible art form by nurturing relationships with Murano glass workers and every purchase made will show you exactly who produced the glass, our promise of authenticity and acknowledgment.

Elizabeth Locke
Venetian Glass Intaglio and Moonstone Earrings 18kt (1990)
$4,396.05 AUD
Elizabeth Locke
Venetian Glass & Smoky Quartz Pin Pendant 18kt (2000)
$4,969.44 AUD
Elizabeth Locke
Multi Color Venetian Glass Intaglio Gold Bracelet 18kt (late 2000)
$4,396.05 AUD

intaglio - carved glass

Listings from Istdibs

March 2017 (listings may have changed)

vermilion jewellery cherie rings

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