Venetian glass making goes back to Roman times as far back as the 8th century. During the 1200’s glass production was Venice’s primary industry. In 1291, all glass making furnaces were moved to the island of Murano due to the concern of fire danger. The production of Venetian glass was at an all time high in the 15th and 16th centuries. Angelo Barovier had discovered the production of clear glass otherwise known as cristallo that later allowed Murano glass makers to produce the only mirrors. Unfortunately, during the 17th and 18th centuries the glass making in Murano began a steady and continual decline. By 1820 only five furnaces were still in existence. Despite the fact the art was almost near death, it fortunately did not die.
In 1854, the six Toso brothers opened Fratelli Toso eventually saving the industry. Initially producing only household glass, they brought back the lost art in the glass making techniques of the past and began restoring Venetian mosaics. This brought on the resurgence in popularity of Murano glass. Several trends over the next several decades continued the popularity of Murano glass. In the 1920’s and 30’s glass animals became the trend, which are still popular today. The 1940’s brought the sommerso technique where one color of glass is dipped into hot glass of a second color. Collector’s actively seek to buy pieces today that reflect these trends. However, the popularity in Murano glass has brought on the production of fakes or glass marketed as Murano glass that is made in China.
When looking for authentic Murano art glass you can feel the quality of the glass. It will often be much heavier than your average piece of glass. Many pieces of Murano Art glass will have a label or etched signature, however, some do not. Examine the pontil, or scar on the base of the piece. It should be polished and smooth with an even depression giving you a hint that it is a higher quality piece. Keep these tips in mind when purchasing Murano glass. Don’t be fooled by all the fakes. Remember, it’s all in the weight and the beauty of the piece.