Ancient History and

Exploring the Ancient Past

Styles of Murano Glass

By Natasha Sheldon

Lamp work beads, millifiori, engraving and murina are just some of the decorative styles and techniques used in Murano glass jewellery and ornaments

Venetian Murano glassware comes in many different styles. Millifiori, Sommersa, Murrina and smalto and engraving, are just some of the decorative techniques which utilize coloured glass, layering, enameling and patterns to create glass goods ranging from jewellery to glasses, paper weights to mirrors.


Murano Glass Beads: Conterie, Chevron and Adventurine.


Murano glass beads are typically used in jewellery such as glass earrings, necklaces and pendants. They come in a variety of different designs and styles:


  1. Conterie Beads. The simplest style of Venetian glass beads, conterie are designed to imitate semi-precious stones. Brightly coloured, they are either round or sharp edged.
  2. Adventurine. These glass beads are decorated in gold or silver leaf.
  3. Lamp Work Beads. Created from molten glass wrapped around a metal rod, lamp work beads come in a variety of different styles.

Lamp Work Beads: Sommersa, Millefiori and Vette.


Lamp work beads can be subdivided into three major subcategories: the Sommersa bead, the Vette bead and the Millefiori bead.


  1. Sommersa. These beads incorporate two overlaid layers of glass in different colours, often with the extra embellishment of gold or silver leaf.
  2. Vette Beads. These beads are created using fine threads of molten coloured glass to create floral patterns on the surface of the bead.
  3. Millefiori. This effect is created by multicoloured rods of glass whose pattern only shows in cross section. The effect caused is rather like a flower, which gives the beads their name, from the Italian for ‘a thousand flowers’.


    Engraved Glass.


    Engraving is only usually applied to clear or pale coloured Venetian glass. It is usual to find it decorating fine tableware, glass frames, mirrors or Venetian vases.


    Traditional patterns include baroque style symmetrical patterns, with garlands of leaves and flowers, or figurative scenes including animals or grotesques. The final design is applied to the glass very lightly, either using diamond point graffito or engraved using a rotina- a glass engraving wheel.


    Other Decorative Styles of Murano Glass: Murrine, Zanfirico and Smalto.


    1. Reticello. A type of glass decoration involving thin tendrils of glass worked into a cage design.
    2. Zanfirico. Unique to murano, Zanfirico incorporates a spiral design within the glass
    3. Murrine-an ancient method of working glass, the name refers to the resulting coloured patterns. Like millefiori, the effect is created by multi coloured rods whose pattern can only be seen in cross section. Designs vary from circular or square patterns to more complex designs and can be used in jewellery and vessels.
    4. Smalto. Smalto is the term for enamelled glass, which has long been used on bottles and bowls.



      1. Murano Glass

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