Murano: The Essential Art Glass

Why investing in fine arte made in Murano is a good choice

Venetian glass is renowned all over the world for its exquisite and timeless beauty. The very heart of Venetian glassmaking can be found on the island of Murano, where this ancient craft has been honed and perfected since the 7th century. It is no wonder that some fourteen centuries later, Murano glass is prized and valued by the discerning collector, not just as an informed and astute investment, but also as works of art.

Rooted in History

The ineluctable superiority of Murano glass has its roots in the earliest days of glassmaking. The first record of glassblowing dates from 982 in a document named “ Fiolario ”, written by a Benedictine monk, Domenico, who used glassblowing techniques handed down by the Romans to form phials. It is thought that the trading connections which the early Venetians enjoyed with the Fenici, the Syrians and the Egyptians (all countries with an ancient tradition of glassblowing), led to the development of the strictly organized and regulated glass industry which grew up during the 12th century. In 1291 an edict issued by Doge Tiepolo decreed that all furnaces were to be moved to the island of Murano; founding what has become one of the world’s best known and most loved industries.

Franco Deboni. Dark side


Superlative Quality

While glassblowing existed in other regions outside Venice, it was the process developed by the Venetians on Murano which set their glass aside from any other. Because the sand used by other glassmakers held impurities which marked the glass, creating flaws and discoloration in its finish, the Venetians instead sourced quartz pebbles from the river beds of the Ticino and Adige Rivers. These were carefully selected for their clarity and then heated and dipped into cold water to bleed any impurities out; they were then ground into very fine powder ( cogoli ), ready to start the process of making the finest and thinnest cristallo glass ( see also Murano Crystal ). It is the Venetians’ superbly refined glassmaking processes, for which Murano glass is famous today, which ensures the finest quality and form of the world’s leading art glass industry.

Collecting Murano

Art glass is a buoyant and thriving collectors market with objets d’art of every type and description, from personal jewellery through to chandeliers available on the open market.

It is important for the serious investment collector to verify that the piece they wish to purchase is genuine: for a piece of art glass to be Murano glass it has to have been made in Murano. For the manufacturers on the island, there is a trademark, a designation of origin, which certifies that the piece has been made on the island. Each piece carries a sticker which cannot be removed, carrying the identification code of its maker. Not all manufacturers subscribe to the scheme at the current time, so this is not an infallible means of identifying genuine Murano glass, but one means by which identification can be made.

The value of the item you are purchasing is a good indicator of its origin. Anything being sold too cheaply is unlikely to be a genuine Murano. Ask the seller to provide you with a certificate giving the maker’s name: which will allow you to confirm online that the piece is sourced from Murano. When buying online, only purchase from specialist websites and make sure you ask for verification that the piece you want is made by a manufacturer based on Murano; and feel safe: according to , you have a right to expect that you are buying exactly what you contract to buy from the seller. Should you purchase a piece which is not as advertised, or which is faulty, you are protected by the same consumer rights which you would have had you made the purchase face to face.

You have a seven day cooling off period, during which time you may return the piece, having notified the seller in writing within that timescale. It is the seller’s responsibility to ensure that your purchase arrives in good order. Should it be damaged in transit, the seller must bear the cost of its return to them and must provide you with a replacement or refund.

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Investment in Art Glass

Since the crash of 2008, serious investors have been turning their attention away from bonds and stocks and turning their focus on a variety of alternative collectibles, which seemed to be both more stable and more fun. Certainly, from the point of view of performance, the luxury and collectibles market is more than able to match the property market, which had been the mainstay of many investment portfolios up until that point.

The Luxury Investment Index shows that the interest of high end investors in fine art has grown over the past year, with the trend expected to continue in the near term. One of the main trends said to be driving the market is the continuing globalization of wealth; and this is amply borne out by the fine art sector. China is today the world’s largest market for art, with their share in the global market standing at 30% in 2011, compared to the US at 29% (and shrinking) and the UK standing at 22%.

In the course of a decade, up until the third quarter of 2012, fine art, including art glass, had enjoyed a return on investment of 199%. While the lower end pieces of Murano may be picked up for a few hundred dollars, the more sought after items can command prices in the thousands of dollars. The auction last year of the Frank Toskan collection, numbered more than 150 pieces of fine art glass, being one of the most significant and complete collections that belonged to a single owner ever to have come up on the auction block; featuring 20th century Murano; estimates for some pieces were as high as $30-40,000.00.

Today you can buy superb examples of both modern - check for example the gorgeous vases by Marco and Mattia Salvadore ( read an interesting review here ) - and re-issued designs, such as the handkerchief vase, with absolute confidence that they are good mid to long term investments and will show a satisfactory return on their original purchase price; whilst having the pleasure of their ownership. With such an enticing array of tableware, ornaments, mirrors, furniture, and much more, any piece will enhance and beautify your home or office, affording you hours of pleasure in its clean lines, signature form and radiant colours.

- Melissa Cromwell for MuranoNet

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