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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Murano Glass

six colors of murano glass tumblers

There are many factors to consider when purchasing Murano glass. My Italian Decor has been working with artists on Murano, and importing their glass art since 1988. After many years in business, we get a lot of questions about Murano Glass, here is our comprehensive guide to purchasing Murano Glass.

Whether shopping online or in-person our single most important piece of advice is this: Know your seller.

Do a little research on the person or company who is selling the glass. Have they been in business long? Do they have a relationship with the artists? Do they spend time in Murano? Do they value working with Murano glassmakers? A reputable seller works directly with the Murano glassmakers visiting the glass factories on Murano Island regularly. Can you contact the seller directly to ask questions? Do they specialize in Italian products and can they tell you how each is made? Is the object made in Murano from Murano glass or, is it Murano Glass, but made elsewhere?

Glass artist at work in Murano, Italy

How to know if it’s Authentic Original Murano Glass

People often ask “How do I know if this is real Murano Glass?” The truth is that it is difficult these days to tell the difference unless you have a trained eye.

Murano glass is any glass that is made on the island of Murano. It can be a single artist in a small studio or a small group in a little larger space or a company with a large special furnace. The art of Murano glass is world renowned. It began on the island and has been mastered by dedicated artists over centuries with fragments that have been found to date back to the Middle Ages.

Genuine Murano glassworks are only produced on the island of Murano, Italy. Murano is a physical location, and not a brand name.

Genuine Murano glassworks are only produced on the island of Murano, Italy. Murano is a physical location, and not a brand name.

It's important to remember that there are many types of Murano glass, not just a single style or type or color or weight. There are many different techniques that are used to create a variety of products. There are heavy, solid glass pieces that are made in molds such as vases and figurines. There are also blown glass objects that are lightweight such as ornaments, tumblers and also exclusive vases and figurines. There is lamp worked glass where the molten glass is worked over a single flame and is pulled, twisted and shaped into all kinds of glass objects from beads to sculptures. And lastly there is a Mosaic glass style called Millefiori glass which means "Thousand Flowers" because the flowers inside the cane show through the cross section cut. 

When shopping for Murano Glass, look for the following: 

  • Look for the label or sticker of authenticity. 
Sometimes expert Venetian glass masters will sign their work, other times they don’t because the object is too small or they just don’t have the extra time. Some labels and stickers can be used on Venetian art glass; one in particular from Consorzio Promovetro Murano claims to be the quintessential label, but it costs 2 Euro a piece and not everyone can afford that. In the end it is best to know as much as possible about the seller.
  • Look for small imperfections

The process of making Murano glass involves melting silica and various other raw materials together in special glass furnaces.

The molten glass mixture is then taken from the furnace in the glass factory and shaped by a master glassblower using traditional techniques passed down for over a thousand years to create these stunning Murano glass art pieces.

Even the best quality hand-blown Murano glass sometimes has a pontil mark, or a kind of scar, where the rod was separated from the glass. You'd find it on the bottom of the piece and feel that it's not quite smooth.

Items that are part of a set, for example, drinking glasses or bowls, will vary slightly between each piece. Each Murano glass piece is made one at a time by the glassmaker and will be a completely unique art glass piece when you buy it.

  • Examine the Color

The colors used in Murano glass production are often more vivid and intense than those used in other types of glass. If the colored glass in a piece is dull or inconsistent, it may not be an original Murano glass vase, figurine, jewelry or sculpture.

  • Check the Price

Authentic Murano glass can be expensive, but it's also an investment in a piece of art that will last a lifetime. Be prepared to spend a fair price for a high-quality piece, but also be wary of prices that seem too good to be true when you buy in person or through an online store.

If a seller is offering a piece at an extremely low price, it may be a fake or a lower-quality glass piece that is not worth the investment.

  • Look for Gold or Silver Features

Murano glass masters are famous for infusing their masterpieces with 24-karat gold or 925 silver. The use of gold in Murano glassmaking dates back to the Venetian Republic, where Murano island was the center of the glassmaking industry.

Murano glassmakers are known for their intricate and beautiful designs, which often incorporate gold leaf or gold foil or pattern. The gold is added to the glass while it is still hot and can be formed into intricate designs, which are then fused into the glass. The use of 24-karat gold in Murano glassware adds to its beauty and value.

  • Beware of "Murano Glass-Style"

"Murano-style" glass refers to glassware that is inspired by the traditional style of glassmaking from the small island of Murano, Italy; however, it is not necessarily made in Murano or made using traditional Murano glass techniques.

Water and buildings on the island of Murano in Italy

In-person - Shopping on the island of Murano

If you're fortunate enough to be visiting Venice, it's worth the trip to the island of Murano, here are a few tips:

  • Take the public ferry (Vaporetto) over to the island.

In Venice you will see signs for an "exclusive tour" of Murano, or your hotel may offer a "free" ride which will take you to a showroom that gives a commission to the hotel. Neither of these options are necessary, taking the public ferry is easy and inexpensive.
  • Navigate away from the docks.

When you disembark at the boat ramp, move away from this area as hawkers may lure you into one of the more touristy glass factories bordering the docks that sell lower-quality gifts for higher prices. Head toward the glass museum and window shop along the way. The farther away from the docks you walk—toward the museum and the Basilica of Santi Maria e Donato—the more authentic the shops.
  • Look for original Murano glass dealers. 

Make sure you're purchasing authentic Murano glass by shopping at official dealers or shops that are authorized by the Venetian government. These shops will have a label or certificate of authenticity when you're shopping for glass in Murano. If it is too good to be true in price, it probably is not made by a Murano glassblower. For the most part, Murano has been kept strictly Muranese meaning most shops carry only glass made in Murano or Venice, but there is always the occasional shop owner who tries to get away with a less expensive form of glass.
  • Know what you're looking for.

Murano glass comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, styles, colors, and designs. From jewelry and bowls to vases and chandeliers, it may help to know what type of glassware you're interested in purchasing before you arrive.
  • Research prices

Do some research beforehand to get an idea of what you can expect to pay for a piece of authentic Murano glass. This will help you avoid overpaying for a piece or purchasing something that's not worth the price.
  • Visit multiple shops

It's always a good idea to shop around to find the best prices and selection. Take the time to visit multiple shops to compare prices, styles, and quality of the Murano glass.
  • Be wary of street vendors

While there may be street vendors selling what they claim is Murano glass, it's best to stick with official dealers and shops to ensure you're purchasing a genuine product, regardless of whether it's a large artistic glass sculpture or some small Murano beads.
  • Look for showrooms/shops carrying one or two styles of glass.

The large showrooms will try and convince you that they or their families make everything inside and this is absolutely not true. One of the beauties of Murano glass is that each artist has their own speciality. Because the techniques vary, to become a respected glass artist you must perfect your skill which means if you are a lampworker you probably don't use a large furnace and if you are a glass blower, you probably don't work over a flame.
Millefiori glass cane in multiple colors

In Summary

By following these tips, you can be confident that you're making a wise investment in a beautiful and authentic piece of Murano glass.

Elisabetta Graceffo, owner of My Italian Decor has been working with glass artists in Italy for 25+ years. She has watched them teach their children the art so that the next generation can carry on their legacy, she has seen many studios close and the entire population of this small island shrink (once inhabiting 30,000, it now has about 4000 permanent residents). 

From small one-man workshops to larger factory studios, there is a common determination to keep the passion alive for an ancient art form that dates back to the 8th century.

My Italian Decor is a small, woman-owned business dedicated to the beauty and art of Venice and Italy, in particular Murano glass made on the island of Murano.

We would never claim something to be Murano if it wasn’t, honoring the tradition has become a part of our legacy as well. We are proud to be in a business that helps artisans continue to do the work that upholds the traditions of Murano and Venetian glass production.  --Elisabetta Graceffo, Owner, My Italian Decor

Two murano glass hearts, one red and the other clear, both with millefiori design, made in Murano, Italy.

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