The Heart Of Glass

The Heart Of Glass

14/10/2023     General News

If you have ever been on holiday to Venice, you cannot have failed to notice that glass – plates, vases, chandeliers, ornaments and many other iterations – is everywhere.  Murano glass is one of the city’s most famous exports,writes David Broom.

Sadly, much of the glass bought by tourists is actually imported, the majority of it from China, because true Murano glass is stunning, beautiful – and expensive.  In fact, many collectors argue that genuine Murano glass is the best in the world.

The origins of glassmaking in Venice go back to Roman times, when moulded glass was used for illumination.  Over time, this Roman expertise was blended with glassmaking techniques brought back by traders from the Byzantine Empire and the orient.

By the 1200s, it was the world’s centre of glassmaking.  The establishment of a Glassmakers Guild and the passing of laws which prohibited the importation of foreign glass, and also forbade Venetian glassmakers to leave the city in case they took their glassmaking secrets with them, showed how important the industry was to the prosperity of the emerging Venetian power.

In 1291 the authorities passed another law requiring all glassmaking furnaces to be moved to the smaller archipelago of Murano in the venetian lagoon, mainly to prevent disastrous fires in a city which was then built mainly of wooden buildings.  The legend of Murano glass was born.

Murano’s fortunes mirrored those of the venetian republic, peaking in the 15th and 16th centuries and then enduring a long decline as Venice’s influence waned, and other glassmaking centres in Bohemia and France emerged.

It wasn’t until 1895, the year of the first Venice Biennale, that Murano’s renaissance really began.  The rise of first Art Nouveau and then Art Deco were ideal showcases for the city’s particular style, and the post-war period saw an exciting blending of traditional styles and techniques with new artistic thinking, giving rise to the thriving and much sought-after top-end glass we see today.

Despite the fakes and imports in the tourist shops, Murano glass is today protected by an EU-recognised ‘Vetro Artistico Murano’ trademark.

Alongside historic companies such as Venini, Barovier & Toso and Ferro Murano, new, independent masters have emerged, making innovative handmade designs which sell for many thousands of pounds.

These pieces are much in demand in the saleroom, both for their intrinsic beauty and their rarity.  One such is coming up for sale in keys’ November Fine Sale: a rare Calcedonia glass turtle made by Murano master Dino Rosin.

Born in 1948, Dino Rosin learned glassmaking as his brother Loredano’s assistant, opening his own studio in 1992 following Loredano’s death.  His works have been exhibited in many major art galleries around the world.

Calcedonia is one of the oldest and rarest forms of glass.  It was developed on Murano in the 15th century, and is generally attributed to the master Angelo Braver whose firm was producing items in Calcedonia in 1460. 

Calcedonia glass echoes the multi-coloured strata of zoned agate, and result from a chemical process where silver reacts with minerals and other substances in the glass to create a blend of colours.

Its secrets were thought to have been lost with the fall of the Venetian Republic, but were finally rediscovered by Lorenzo Radi in 1856.  Its pioneer in modern times was Loredano Rosin, working with his brother Dino, who combined this ancient and historic glass with modern designs.

The turtle, which measures approx. 48cm by 35cm and is mounted on a Calcedonia glass base, has a pre-sale estimate of £2,000-£2,500.

  • Keys’ final three day Fine Sale of the year takes place on Wednesday 22nd, Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th Full details, including an online catalogue, will be available at

Newsletter Signup