A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Vintage Murano Glass

A Beginner’s Guide to Buying Vintage Murano Glass

The term "Murano Glass" refers to Glass produced on the Island of Murano, near Venice, Italy. There are many different manufacturers, both past and present, based in Murano that are known for being the best glassmakers in the world. For the purposes of our post today, we are focusing on Mid-Century Murano glass, produced in the 1950s and 60s. There was a boom of Murano glass being produced at this time, a vast amount of Venetian glassware was exported as well as produced for tourists visiting Venice.

We look for the following when buying Murano glass:

1) Label/Signature - This is the easiest one, if there’s a label you are usually on the money. Unfortunately many Murano items made in the 1950s/60s have had their labels removed so it is not super common to find them in tact. In fact, a label that looks too good to be true can be a red flag.  Some reproductions have fake Murano labels. If you find a piece of Murano with a label and you are concerned about its legitimacy, you can look it up here at The 20th Century Glass Murano Label Library. Same goes for signatures, many of the older pieces are unsigned so it is more rare to find one that is signed.

2) Weight/Heaviness - Most Murano pieces feel heavy and substantial in your hands. Something that feels light and delicate is usually not indicative of a Murano piece. There are exceptions to every rule however, so every factor should be looked at to determine authenticity.

3) Presence of a Pontil Mark - The pontil mark is a scar that was left behind when the glass maker broke the pontil rod off the finished blown Murano glasswork. The pontil mark can be found on the bottom of hand-blown artwork. Touch it with your finger and you can feel that the surface of the pontil mark is not smooth.

4) Presence of Small Imperfections - Murano art glass will typically have small air bubbles or may not be perfectly symmetrical as it is made by hand.

5) Technique Used - This is what we find to be the most useful when identifying Murano glass.  There are several Murano techniques/looks - here are some of the ones we look for:



This is our favorite for two reasons - they are visually stunning and tend to be a great seller. Sommerso refers to two or more colors in the glass being layered on tops of each other. It is formed by dipping colored glass into molten glass of a different color, before blowing the glass into its desired form.



Also called “controlled bubble,” these pieces of glass have small bubbles inside the object. These are very thick glass and are made by overlaying several layers of air bubbles in a grid pattern within the glass wall.




Filligree/ Lattticino/Zanfirico

These are types of cane work where colored glass canes within the glass are twisted creating a striped, ribbon-like effect. These also tend to be great sellers for us as they are very intricate and beautiful.




Tutti Frutti

These have a multicolored speckled look, usually including gold or silver flake.





Millefiori means a thousand flowers and is a colored cane in which the cross-section of the rods used for the initial bundle is made of concentric layers of different colored glass with a star-shaped core.





This refers to the sparkling particles captured inside translucent glass usually gold or silver.



Things we avoid buying are the following:

1) Paperweights - We avoid these because we generally buy for re-sale and as beautiful as some of them are, the truth is no-one uses paperweights anymore. There are also so many reproductions and Chinese knockoffs that for us, it's just better to avoid the category entirely. All of this only applies if you are buying for resale, if you find a paperweight you love, by all means buy it. Some of them are works of art.

2) Anything that looks like an aquarium with fish swimming in it - super common Chinese reproduction.

3) Animals/Clowns - The “real” Murano clowns and animals can be quite valuable, but there are so many reproductions out there that it’s just easier to stay away from the category. We’ve also found that these just don’t sell well for us as they read as more of a figurine. Again, if you are buying it for yourself and you love clowns by all means buy that Murano clown, Player!

If you get further into Murano you can also learn about which techniques are associated with which makers, some common names are Seguso, Mandruzzato and Fratello Toso. That is a little more in depth than we will go today, but below are some sources for further reading.

Check out our Murano for sale Here!

Reference Links:

20th Century Glass

Venezia Autentica

20th Century Glass - Glass Labels

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