For collectors of antique glassware, the name Murano is instantly recognizable. Produced on the Venetian island of the same name, the history of Murano glass traces back over a thousand years. The story began in the 8th century when glassmaking was first introduced to the island by the Romans. Their reputation as word-renowned artisans, however, was not solidified until 1291 when the Venetian government required all glassmakers to move to Murano to prevent the mostly-wooden city from being consumed in a fire. As Venice was a major seaport, their goods were carried afar and brought prestige and wealth back to the island.
By the 1500’s, the glassmakers of Murano were practically nobility and enjoyed most of the benefits including the ability to wear a sword and immunity from state prosecution. A master glassmaker could even take a daughter of nobility in marriage, something that would have been unheard of for any other member of the artisan class. Because they were so valuable, however, glassmakers were not allowed to leave Venice and exporting a trade secret was punished by death.
One of the most recognizable Murano designs is called millefiori, meaning “million flowers”. This process stretches a number of thin, layered glass rods called canes and then slices them in cross sections. Each section reveals the pattern of the layered canes resembling tiny flowers. Even today, Murano glass of all types is still sought after for its singular beauty and distinctive aesthetic.