What is the difference between Venetian Beads and Murano Beads?
There is no difference. All of the glass used to make the beads originates in Murano. However, Venetian Glass has been used to describe the glass coming from Murano for centuries and since Venice is much more widely known than the island of Murano, people continue to refer to it as Venetian Glass, Venetian Jewelry. So beads and jewelry made from beads produced in Murano are sold in the stores in San Marco (the famous square in Venice) as Venetian Glass. It's a matter of marketing terms and that Venice is much wider known than Murano. When the glass furnaces were moved from Venice to Murano, the Doge specifically gave the residents of Venice the right to make small pieces (lampwork) which included beads, small animals, the kind of art made by the canes (which of course are produced in Murano). Historically some of the best known bead houses have been in Venice, namely in Cannaregio.
Where are the beads made?
They are made both in Venice and Murano in Italy. Murano is the famous "glass island" where the glass furnaces were moved in 1291 by mandate of the Doges of Venice and is about 5 minutes by vaporetto (boat) from Venice. Many visitors think of it as just Venice. In recent years, due to the cost of housing in Venice and Murano, lampwork and beadmaking is migrating to the small towns surrounding Venice.
What are the beads made of?
They are made of glass which is about 70% silica (sand). Venetian beads are made from a type of glass known as soda glass with a COE of 90 degrees which is a measurement of the expansion in heating and cooling. The beads start with glass rods which have been made in Murano. All of our beads are made from the famous Moretti Canes who make filigrana canes, millefiori canes and the solids and translucent colors (now Effetre Industriale).
Why are they priced per bead?
Our beads are priced individually as we find people like the freedom to choose the number of beads they purchase. And it is how they are made, one by one.
Will they break easily?
Think of marbles you may have played with as a child. The round beads are quite sturdy. The longer skinny beads and shapes which have points are more delicate. As with all jewelry it is best to treat it gently and since it is glass, it can break.
How big are the holes?
Traditionally the size of the holes are quite small, usually measuring less than 1mm. This is similar to the size of holes in pearls. Some of the larger beads will have a slightly larger opening. By special order (in quantities over 1000 pieces) we can have beads produced with larger holes. Larger holes are only for larger beads because we need a density surrounding the hole which makes the bead strong.
Are all beads made on copper mandrels?
Today most of the production Venetian beads are made on the copper mandrel. However, the copper mandrel was introduced in Murano in the 1920s by the Moretti family and introduced as a cost saver to the industry. Prior to the "discovery" that they could etch out the copper mandrels, the beads had been produced exclusively by the use of metal mandrels coated with a white paste which is still used today for some beads, mostly silverfoil beads or gold exteriors which can be burned by the Nitric Acid. (And Americans thought they invented bead release!)
It was considered at the time to be revolutionary as it required no preparation and of course there were no environmental laws at the time. The beads which are made on copper require etching with Nitric Acid to dissolve the copper and with todays environmental laws, the equipment has become more expensive.
Today in the School of Glass on Murano, they use the stainless steel mandrels and bead release produced in the US to teach and of course the environmental handling of the nitric acid is now a known issue, so we may see the return of the steel mandrels in all work. We regularly carry bead release to Venice some of our lampworkers use as we use the stainless steel when we work with samples as we can make the beads and have them ready to try without waiting for the acid. Additionally our large hole beads we make exclusively on steel mandrels and bead release.
Sometimes we choose to make our beads on stainless steel, because certain colors of Moretti Glass have a chemical reaction with the copper leaving a sort of "halo" on the transparent beads. We can resolve this by using bead release. In the future, most of the beads may be made with the stainless steel rods and bead release as we consider it a more environmentally friendly process and less of a danger to our bead makers to avoid exposure to the environment and to the bead makers to discontinue the use of Nitric Acid.
Why are Venetian Beads more expensive?
Many factors enter into price of an item. One is the cost of labor in the country, another is the desirability and availability of an item. Beads made in Venice are handmade and few can be made in a day compared to the machine made beads of the Czech Republic. There are a limited number of people still working this ancient craft in Venice - so supply is also limited. And we feel, quite honestly, they are much more beautiful a result of the quality of the glass and the workmanship.
Are all Venetian beads Annealed?
The production beads are usually placed in vermiculite after flash annealing (an annealing process in the flame) to cool down slowly. Annealing ovens are used on some of the larger pieces and all our lampwork beads are annealed. The lampwork beads generally have more intense workmanship and take longer to produce. In production beads, you expect some breakage but our more expensive lampwork beads, must be annealed as they may take up to 45 minutes to make one bead while a production bead is made within a minute or two.
Why are the beads different?
Mainly because they are not made by machine and human made products always reflect the slight variances. As with all articles made by hand, the sizes and shapes will vary. It depends on so many variables, they are all within a range, but no two will ever be exactly alike. This is simply not possible with handmade lamp worked beads. These variations are not imperfections or rejects, simply that they are made by hand.
The Effetre glass cane is typically worked at 1733°F (945°C) and is a bright red in the flame. At these temperatures, and working by hand, you can imagine that precision on size is limited. If they were all cookie cutter beads, they wouldn't be Venetian. Like people, enjoy them for their differences and artistic component.
Why is it called lampwork?
Answer: It is called lumè in Italian and means that the beads were worked over a flame with a manually operated bellows to flame the fire. Today the flame is supplied by natural gas to generate the heat required to melt the glass. Many traditional Venetian beadmakers continue to use the gas alone, while some have acquired newer torches which mix gas and oxygen to produce a higher heat. Different heats are required to make certain beads. Our section called "Lampwork" are made at a heat of about 200 degrees hotter as it allows for detail work, while the beads such as our fish beads and beads with gold exterior require a lower heat so to prevent burning of the gold.
By tradition in Venice, lampwork refers to the small animals, figurines and other small glass which the lampworkers produce by working the piece on the end of a cane of Murano Glass. They work over the torch with canes, no mandrels as these small pieces do not have holes. Many of our pendant hearts and other pendants are produced in this fashion. The locals distinguish themselves that they are Lampworkers - not bead makers!
What gives the beads the sparkle?
Answer: Avventurina which is a colored glass containing irridescent particles, usually copper or chrome, crystallized from the coloring agent used in the glass. The crystallizing process occurs during a lengthy cooling of the molten glass in a special glass vessel. The process was accidentally discovered on Murano about 1610-25 and the family aquired an exclusive arrangement to produce this decorative discovery. Early documents also refer to avventurina as pasta stellaria.
What is used in gold foil and silver foil beads?
Small squares of tissue thin gold foil 24kt gold and .925 sterling silver are used. The whitegold foils is known in Venice as "Platino" and is the same as in jewelry, it is an alloy of gold and other white metals. This the same type foil which is used in applying to statues, architecture and other gold decorated items. The bead is started on the mandrel and then quickly this molten small center of the bead is rolled over the tissue thin foil. A final coat of clear of molten translucent glass completes the bead. Because the gold is inside the bead, it will not peel or chip away. Beads with the gold exterior simply do not have the final coat of clear glass and with time and wear some of the gold or silver will wear off. This is not a defect, it just enhances the overall effect of the bead and is normal. The companies who produce the foils are located in Italy and have been in the business for generations, supplying artisans around the world.
How do you care for the glass beads?
Because the process of making beads is essentially a chemical process, it's best to give the beads a good bath before working with them. This way you will assure that there is no residue left on the beads. This also makes them sparkle and shine. Soap and water work quite well for glass to clean it. No need for stronger solutions.
Why are there rough edges around some of the holes and how can I fix this?
The beads are handworked on a mandrel. Sometimes little bits of glass extend onto the mandrel, known as "stringers" this is a natural occurrence. A beaders helper - a small round file - available through most beading stores will help you rub the edges to prevent them from cutting your thread. Or use a little very fine sandpaper (400), but be sure to keep the bead wet while sanding it or you will loose the shine.
What is considered normal variation in Venetian Beads?
It is best to demonstrate some of the variations in Venetian Beads, please click on the link to see About Handmade Beads. It is normal for some gold to extend on the outside of the beads, picturing that a round bead is rolled in the foil then the shape is formed, and that in trying to keep the gold foil from the outside, it is also possible that the gold or silver foil does not extend to the complete end of the bead. The ends of the beads whether they be cubes, squares, tubes, hearts or ovals are subject to having an uneven ending. We recommend, bead reamers and very fine sandpaper to smooth these off. Then of course beadcaps can hide the uneven endings.
Will the sharp edges of the bead cut my thread?
Like pearls, the edges of the bead are sharp and can eventually cut cotton or silk thread, and especially the stretch cords. Wires with plastic coating outside are more sturdy and less likely to be cut. This is probably why the traditional method of stringing beads in Venice is like pearls with individual knots between each bead, that way if one cuts, you do not loose the entire strand.
Can I special order beads?
We do work with manufacturers and designers who require special designs or color beads. Special orders are only made in manufacturing quantities due to the amount of coordination required to produce the beads. Special orders require up to 3 months for production and are not returnable. They are only available for large quantities, 500 per SKU (for other requirements, please contact us).
Do you have a printed catalog?
We do not have a printed catalog. We receive beads weekly and they are added to the web as quickly as possible. We also sell out of beads weekly and remove them from the web. While we know that everyone enjoys a catalog to sit and look at the beads, it is impossible for us to keep one current due to the overwhelming popularity of the beads.
Can you tell me where you buy beads in Venice?
Sorry, this is company proprietary information. We have spent 25+ years developing our team of beadmakers. As you might imagine, this has been a costly as well as lengthy process. We have more than 35 different beadmaking teams (pendants/specialty products). Many of our beadmakers speak no English and some only the local dialect. So in addition to developing sources, we have spent considerable time learning the languages. Some of our products have taken over 2 years from concept to production. We work very hard to bring you the best of Venetian and Murano beads.
Can I visit a bead factory in Venice?
Currently there are no bead making facilities open to the public in Venice or Murano. Most of the work is done in small facilities, few of the beadmakers speak English, and there is no room for tours. You can, however, visit demonstration glass factories to with glass being blown (usually a small horse or other animal), which can be found all over Murano or your hotel can arrange tours for you. If you are on a tour or with a cruise, you will be taken to a demonstration of all things Murano and Burano, these are for cruise and bus tour operators only. We invite you to view our short film clip from an actual studio in Venice where you can see how the beads are made.
What is the composition of Venetian (Murano) Glass?
Murano Glass, which includes the canes from Effetre Moretti are Soda-Lime Glass. Soda-lime glass is primarily used for everyday items decorative and utility such as our beads, sculptures, drinking glasses, and window glass. It contains mainly these three ingredients: approximately 60-75% silica, 12-18% soda, and 5-12% lime.
What Gauge Wire and Headpins will fit in Venetian Beads?
The quick answer is that wire gauge of anywhere from 19 and smaller (remember that with wire, the smaller the number the larger the wire, so here we mean 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 all work). Our beads have a nominal hole size of 1mm. 20 Gauge wire is 0.813. For the long answer visit our webpage: Wire Gauge and Bead Hole Sizes
Why am I not receiving email confirmations for orders and shipment?
Our email confirmations when you place an order are automatic, they go out without fail. Our system automatically sends emails when we ship along with tracking information. First check your spam folder, check your security settings. Then be sure to add VenetianBeadShop to your approved list. Ever so often some internet provider decides to block emails. If this happens we can have our technicians contact your provider. AOL often decides to do so, for what reason, no one knows, but we can talk with them.
Viewing the status of my order
Here's why you need to create an account. You can login and scroll down where you can view your orders, previous orders and status of orders placed. If you created your account after you placed an order, email us and we can link your order to your account.
Why are Findings NOT Returnable?
All findings are sold based on the metal content, silver and gold. We specify in each product it's exact content. We ship with confidence that these goods are as stated. It is costly to test Returned goods and having to do so, which would increase pricing to all customers. If you have a question, contact us before ordering.
Why are Swarovski Crystals NOT Returnable?
Like our findings, our customers buy with confidence that our crystals are authentic Swarovski. Returned items cannot be tested or verified, therefore become useless. Again, this would pass increase cost on to all customers. Swarovski part numbers are standard, the quality is known, the sizing always the same. It is not practical or economical to everyone in the longrun to restock these low cost accent beads. If you have a question, contact us prior to ordering.
California Prop 65 (The below provided by Swarovski relating to the settlement by the lead manufacturers in the 1990s.) NOTE: Swarovski is now producing Crystals with no lead content. However until the powers that be agree, we have to warn you!
Attention California residents. Proposition 65 Warning:
Consuming foods or beverages that have been kept or served in leaded crystal products or handling products made of leaded crystal will expose you to lead-a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. You may return this product for a full refund within 30 days of receipt.