Murrina is an Italian term for colored patterns or images made in a glass cane (long rods of glass) that are revealed when cut in cross-sections. Murrine can be made in infinite designs—some styles are more familiar, such as millefiori. Murrine are designed by layering different colors of molten glass around a core, then heating and stretching it into a rod. When cool, the rod is sliced into cross-sections of desired thickness with each slice possessing the same pattern in cross-section.
The murrina process first appeared in the Middle East more than 4,000 years ago and was revived by Venetian glassmakers on Murano in the early 16th century. Murrina is extensively used in Venetian Murano Glass jewellery.
Millefiori is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware. The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words “mille” (thousand) and “fiori” (flowers). While the use of this technique long precedes the term “millefiori”, it is now most frequently associated with Venetian glassware. The millefiori technique involves the production of glass canes or rods, known as murrine, with multicolored patterns which are viewable only from the cut ends of the cane. A murrine rod is heated in a furnace and pulled until thin while still maintaining the cross section’s design. It is then cut into beads or discs when cooled.
The manufacture of mosaic beads can be traced to Ancient Roman, Phoenician and Alexandrian times. Based on the technique Venetian beads can be divided into three main categories: “conteria”, “rosetta” and “a lume”. The first two are obtained by canes previously prepared. The “a lume” beads are created by rolling up the soft glass onto a hot burner (lume) around a metal ring, forming an infinite variety of types that can be enriched with different materials as gold, glaze and venturina.
These are the youngest among Venetian beads, their first production dates back to 1600. Based on the kind of work they can be categorized as: s-cietà beads, millefiori, sommerso, fiorato.
Millefiori is created by covering the light layer of soft glass around the metal with many cross-sections of murrina. The sections get compacted with simple tools and perfected according to the model.
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