Learning how to identify Murano glass that's authentic takes research and skill. What makes Murano glass special is the fact that it's handmade on Murano Island in Venice, Italy, but that's also what makes it hard to identify. The lack of a universal marking system means you need to learn what Murano glass is and who makes it so you can properly identify it.
What Is Murano Glass?
Murano glass is a specific style of glass that's handmade and often has a quilted or mosaic look. These decorative glass pieces are made by Murano masters, or highly skilled glass artisans in Murano, Italy who use bright colors. All Murano pieces are hand-blown glass or mouth-blown. Many of the hand tools used by these master glassmakers are designs from the middle ages. Murano glass includes everything from vases and chandeliers to Christmas ornaments and glass jewelry beads.
Tips for Identifying Real Murano Glass
The best way to find a real piece of Murano glass is to visit Murano and buy directly from the maker. Since this isn't practical for a lot of people, you can use these tips to see if your piece is authentic.
Murano Glass Traits
While each Murano glass piece is unique because it is handmade, some of the traits or characteristics as shared by The Venice Insider indicate it is real. The more traits you find in your piece, the better than chances it is authentic Murano glass.
- There will likely be small imperfections, like air bubbles, because of the way the colors are layered.
- There is no lead used in Murano glass, so even the clear glass is never completely clear.
- hand-blown 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.
- Murano glass is made with bold colors that are often layered.
- Murano masters like to add specks of real gold or silver to their pieces.
- Real Murano glass is very expensive, even the small pieces, especially if it contains real gold or silver.
Murano Glass Marks
Not all Murano glass has an identifying mark in or on the glass. Individual artists or Murano glass factories decide how they will mark their own pieces. If you do find a glass marking or label, it still doesn't mean the piece is authentic.
Murano Glass Labels
If there is a label on the glass piece, a real one will typically include the name of the workshop where it was created and the signature of the glassmaster. Be aware that fake labels are prominent and their manufacturers work hard to make them look authentic.
- The label should indicate it was made in Murano, Italy.
- Some labels will include the handwritten furnace number to pinpoint exactly where it was made.
- The label may include the artists name and a logo.
- Any label that indicates it is Murano-style is probably not real.
- A label with the "Vetro Artistico Murano" label of the official Murano Glass Promovetro consortium may indicate a fake as many artists don't like to pay the membership fee, but some do and use the label as a sign of authenticity.
- "Cristalleria d'arte Ann Primrose Collection Murano" is a popular label used in Chinese "Murano" glass and might even contain the signature of Ann Primrose.
- A label that says "Vetro Eseguito Secondo La Tecnica Dei Maestri Di Murano" translates in English to "glass was made according to the technique of the masters of Murano," which means it's not made by actual Murano masters.
- Browse labels on 20th Century Glass's website to see different versions of real labels from foil labels to paper labels.
Murano Glass Signatures
Some glassmasters etch their signature into the glass, but it's not the standard. Since they most likely have an Italian name, it may be hard to identify the signature. If you can read the name from the signature, you can do an online search to find out if that name matches a glassmaker in Murano.
- Some signatures are acid stamped.
- Any handwritten artist signature would have most likely been diamond-point engraved.
- You can spot fake signatures under a magnifying glass because the lines will appear evenly round.
Certificate of Authenticity
Knockoffs have been a problem for Murano glassmakers for centuries. For this reason, many choose to include a certificate of authenticity with every piece. A true certificate of authenticity will include some text in Italian, the origins of the piece, and sometimes the process by which it was made.
Famous Murano Gass Artists
It's not practical to memorize the name of every Murano glassmaster in history, but knowing some of the top names can help you figure out if your piece is real and who made it. According to the Venice Insider, there are currently about 60 glassmasters in Murano.
Barovier & Toso
Founded in 1295, Barovier & Toso is one of the oldest names in Murano glass. Known especially for their luxury lighting, the brand now showcases its best work in the Palazzo Barovier & Toso in Murano.
Salviati is a Murano glass factory that was founded in 1859. They are known for their innovative creativity in designs created by a variety of individual artists.
Venini was started in 1921 by Paolo Venini and Giacomo Cappellin and called Vetri Soffiati Cappellin Venini & C. Artist Vittorio Zecchin soon joined. Their famous vase Veronese was created this same year and became the symbol for the company. Venini is a glass factory, not the name of a glassmaster.
Bring a Piece of Italy Home
Murano glass is coveted for its delicate beauty and rich history, but fakes have been produced for centuries making it difficult to collect authentic pieces. After you've examined your piece, if you think it might be real Murano glass, look for an antiques appraiser who specializes in glass to get a professional opinion.