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HISTORY

Pliny the Elder attributed the invention of glass to the Phoenicians, but we now know that it was first produced in Mesopotamia, mixing silica, soda and lime.
The first traces of glass production in the Venetian lagoon date back to the 8th century, A.D., and were found on the island of Torcello. By the 13th century early glass-craftsmen were organized into an "Arte" or guild, and the Venetian Republic ordered all furnaces in the city to move to the island of Murano, to avoid the risk of fire.
At that point the glass was made mixing silica sand, plant-ash, broken glass and manganese. The production was mainly utilitarian.
At the end of the 14th century the Republic established that the raw materials needed to make the glass couldn’t be exported outside of Venice. Glass making had become very prestigious and glassmakers were held in extremely high regard, so much so the government decreed that the marriage of a noble with the daughter of one of them would not prevent the title being passed on to the offspring.
The 15th century was marked by the genius of Angelo Barovier, arguably the greatest glass-master ever. He invented a clear, colourless glass without impurities which he called "cristallo", being so similar to rock crystal. He also invented "calcedonio", a unusual, variegated glass that simulates certain agate and coloured marble.
The 16th century was Murano’s Golden Age, when technological innovations merged with a remarkable creativity. Murano glass was exported all over the world, from the Spanish Indies to Turkey, from Germany to Syria. People were charmed by the many characteristics of Murano glass: the materials of highest quality, the richness of the techniques and the glass-masters’ skill. Visiting Murano became a must for every person of importance.
Glass pieces were created to fulfill the wishes and tastes of an international clientele, utilizing all kinds of styles. Glass-masters’ virtuosity was limitless and each creation was a work of art.
In the 19th century the production of glass beads blossomed on Murano.
On Murano today 2,000 people out of a population of 7,000 work in glass production. Glass making remains a completely handmade art form following thousand years old traditions and techniques.

THE GLASS

Today glass art continues to be made on Murano by blowing and hand crafting with the use of scissors and pincers.
The glass itself is made by melting together silica sand, soda and lime. Metal oxides are used to colour the glass: copper for green and blue, cobalt for light-blue, iron and antimony for yellow and brown, manganese for amethyst and purple, selenium and gold for red.
It takes 9 hours for glass to reach the melting point of 1500° C. In the afternoon the "crucible" is loaded at 1250° C and as the temperature rises, the mixture is refined. At 2 a.m. the temperature is lowered to 900° C so that the glass wouldn't be too liquefied to work come morning. By 7 a.m. the glass has reached the proper consistency and is ready to be worked.
Working alongside a glass-master, an assistant picks up a clot of hot mixture using an iron pipe. He presses and rolls the mixture onto an iron plate called a "bronzin" both to reduce and combine the mass into uniformity.
The first blow in the glass mass makes a balloon, known as "colletto". Pressing the "colletto" on the "bronzin" the assistant gives it the proper symmetrical shape. Then a second glass-mass is incorporated into the first one.
A second assistant works the "colletto" to the necessary breadth, at which point the glass-master takes over to create the glassware using a variety of techniques. In this process the piece often has to be returned to the oven to avoid excessive cooling. The piece can only remain out of the oven for a limited time, so one of the master’s skill is his ability to do intricate work in such short time periods. Once completed, the glassware is placed in the hardening-oven, where it is cooled slowly for 24 hours.This slow cooling helps prevent the thermal shock that shatters glass if it's exposed to normal air temperature too quickly.
The glassware is then grinded and polished and is ready to be sold.