The author did, however, include some interesting statistics about glass in Venice:
- An "estimated 70% of the glass sold in Venice doesn't come from Murano", and
- The Italian Financial Police seized more than 11 million pieces of imitation Murano glass in 2010.
Does that sound like "weak" demand? Why would anybody, especially a counterfeiter, bother producing massive quantities of a product there was little demand for? Meanwhile, exactly how much fake Murano glass is there in Venice if 11 million fake pieces could be confiscated without interrupting the available supply? Maybe the problem plaguing the Murano glass factories has less to do with demand, and more to do with this large supply of imitation glass and the fact that only 30% of the glass sold in Venice is actually made on Murano...
Meanwhile, they are not only the Glassmasters who are hurt by the excessive importation and sale of imitation glass in Venice. Tourists who purchase fake Murano glass in Venice are being routinely defrauded of the money that they want to spend on authentic Murano glass.
There's some fatalistic debate about this. Some people have started to believe that tourists actually do want the fakes. Please trust us on this: Nobody wants to cradle a box full of glass on a trip home half-way around the world from Venice only to unwrap it and discover a "Made in China" label. Nobody.
We choose to buy glass in Venice because Murano glass is the most famous and revered art of Venice and we want to bring home a piece of it. That Murano glass is beautiful, unique and quite difficult to get outside of Venice makes it worth cradling those boxes all the way home…or even *shudder* waiting for Poste Italia to deliver them. But, if we're going to go through all that, especially with the cat officially out of the bag that more than half of the "Murano" glass being sold in Venice is fake, we want to make damned sure that we get the real thing!
How to Identify Real, Authentic, Handmade Murano Glass in Venice?
- Look for original and unique styles. The best indicator of authentic Murano glass will be the uniqueness of a shop's selection in comparison to other shops. Each glassmaster, glass factory and Murano glass jewelry designer has his/her own specialties and individual contemporary style. Nason-Moretti is not Igor Balbi is not Muranero is not Ragazzi is not Marisa Conveto. They are completely unique.
- Look for variety. Authorized retailers of authentic Murano glass - shops not operated by a Murano factory, but authorized to sell authentic Murano glass - have pieces in a wide variety of styles, sizes and price ranges. They often have a dedicated section for the work of the different factories and display the business cards of each of the factories whose work they sell. And, just as no two pieces of Murano glass are exactly alike, the selection in each of these stores will be unique from the others.
- Ask about it. Wherever you're shopping, on Murano or in Venice, sellers of authentic Murano glass can tell you about their work. Glassmakers are artists with historical knowledge, contemporary style and love for their craft! Asked and admired enough, they may even offer you a demonstration or invite you to visit the furnace. Authorized sellers will also be able to tell you the origin and factory on Murano that each piece they sell comes from.
- Look for the trademark. There is the official Murano glass trademark, pictured below, which is a good indicator of authenticity. Unfortunately, it is not universally used by the Murano glassmakers. A piece with this mark is likely to be authentic, but many authentic pieces are not marked.
- Be willing to "go inside" to get it. When Venetians say, "go inside", what they mean is that you've got to explore the small side streets of Venice to find the best, most authentic, things that Venice has to offer. It's true for restaurants, it's true for bars, and it's true for shopping for authentic Murano glass.
- Everything is the same -i.e. you see hundreds of millefiore pendents and watches - and you feel like you saw the exact same things in a dozen other stores.
- It's too cheap to be handmade. You know what I'm talking about. While it's not necessary to spend hundreds of euros to buy real Murano glass, it's also not possible to buy real Murano glass for less than the cost of a pizza.
- No one can tell you who made it. If all the shopkeeper can tell you is "Murano", that is not a good sign.
- There are "sale" and "x% off" signs all over the shop. It is a rising trend among retailers of fake Murano glass, and other counterfeit goods in Venice, to paper their shops with "sale" signs as a way of luring customers through the doors. Some even claim to be liquidating and then continue liquidating for years.
- There are ridges or lines on the sides of the item. Ridges are a sign that a piece of glass was mass produced using molds.
- Pieces look exactly the same. While mass-produced pieces can be exactly the same, no two pieces of handmade Murano glass are exactly alike.
One last note: Antique or vintage styles of Murano glass are not necessarily fake. As factories on Murano have closed and liquidated over the years, local retailers have purchased their stock and some have opened up shops in Venice. These shops sell real Murano glass and they are the best places to purchase vintage and antique style Murano glass pieces. Two ways to determine if a shop is selling authentic vintage pieces are: 1. Ask about the origin of the glass. They will know who the artists were. 2. Look for variety. Some of the best authorized sellers of authentic Murano glass, such as Atelier Leonardo in Cannaregio, carry a mixed selection of contemporary and vintage pieces.
Get it While You Can! There is a Shortage of Murano Glass.
There is actually a shortage of authentic Murano glass. With Murano only supplying 30% of the glass being sold in Venice, the number of factories on Murano dwindling month after month and the number of tourists visiting Venice rising each year, there can't possibly be enough authentic Murano glass in Venice to meet the actual demand.
We're not even sure that Murano, in its current condition, has the capacity to produce enough glass to meet demand. We do know that the factories are facing multiple challenges. It is not only competition from fakes that is damaging the Murano glass factories, but also retail rental prices in Venice, fuel prices which have increased their production costs and excessive export duties which prevent them from selling overseas.
What to Do? Buy the Real Thing & Leave the Rest to Venice.
What if enough tourists are well enough informed to avoid fakes and shop for real Murano glass in Venice, and that leaves Murano scrambling to keep up with demand? That's their problem!