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What is Millefiori Glass? - Everything you wanted to know about this glass technique

What is Millefiori Glass?

Literally translated “mille” means thousand and “fiori” means flowers so millefiori means thousand flowers. Millefiori is a glasswork technique to create mosaic chips for use in decorating Murano Glass pieces. It is universally recognized as originating from Murano. The term "Murrine" is used to describe the mosaics. 

Closeup view of millefiori mosaic chips heated in furnace while making glass decorative item.

History of Millefiori Glass

The technique of millefiori glass-making can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Rome. The term "millefiori was first used to describe the mosaic chips by London glass-blower Apsley Pellatt, in his book “Curiosities of Glass Making” first published in 1849.

The history of millefiori is not completely clear but it is likely that the Egyptians first came up with the idea to fuse together different colors of glass sometime between the third and first century B. C. Later, examples of millefiori were found to be made by Phoenicians and Romans, but it is not known if these glass masters influenced one another or had the same idea.

The oldest intricate and very well preserved Roman Millefiori beads were found by archeologists, who believe that they were made between 50BCE and 300CE.
Romans brought the technique to Europe and some glass rods were found on 8th century archaeological sites in Ireland. Some millefiori-decorated jewelry was found in Sutton Hoo, the early 7th century Anglo-Saxon cemetery.
Nobody knows how and why it happened, but after 8th century the knowledge of making millefiori glass was lost and not seen again until 15th century, when Murano glass makers rediscovered it, or maybe reinvented it, and made it famous all over the world.

 

How Millefiori is made:

The cane is set side by side to create a flower. The piece is heated fusing the colored cane together into a thick, round collection of the individual canes. The now single cable of many colored rods is heated again and with 2 people, one on either side and is stretched to the desired diameter. The long cylindrical piece of glass shows the flower design when you look down the center. Cut into mosaic segments you now have the cross section and a distinct flower will emerge prominently. 

 

Closeup view of millefiori mosaic glass canes before being sliced up in to mosaic chips for glassmaking.

These pieces are then placed together to create a mosaic or sometimes "sprinkled" throughout a blown-glass piece. See examples of millefiori used in products below.

Tree of Life Dish with Millefiori mosaic pattern Example of a product made with millefiori design on blown-glass drinking glasses

Millefiori is still made in Murano, Italy today and the glassmakers create these pieces entirely by hand. Here at My Italian Decor we absolutely love the unique look of the one-of-a-kind pieces created using this age-old technique. We carry a wide variety of millefiori jewelry including earrings, necklaces and pendants as well as vases, glassware, and ornaments. Do you have a special piece made with this amazing technique? 

 

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