Today, glass is created in many countries of the world, and many countries are developing reputation for outstanding glass art. But for many centuries there were two places that produced large glass art – Murano in Italy and several places in Bohemia, what is it today in the Czech Republic.
Small Italian island of Murano, in the Venetian lagoon, was the center of world glass production from the 15th century. Famous for their blown glass of exquisite shapes and shapes, the Murano artists developed many new techniques used today, such as crystalline glass, melting glass, hot-melt glass (aventurine), multicolored (millefiori), milk lattimo, to name but a few.
Murano glass was also known for its colors. The colors were by using different dyes and chemicals. A dye was ground, then mixed and melted with the glass. Many of these dyes are still used today.
For many centuries, Murano was the center of a lucrative export trade with dinner makers, chandeliers and mirrors. The techniques used by Venetian glassmakers were kept in great confidentiality, so Murano managed to keep the monopoly in glass manufactured for centuries. What made Murano so different in the composition of all others was that the local quartz stones were almost pure silica, ground in very fine sand. Combined with soda from Levant, Murano manufacturers were able to produce glass of exceptional quality. It helped them keep a monopoly on the import of soda.
What makes Bohemian glass or bohemian crystal so different from Murano is that it is decorated with grinding, the technique is called cold-processed glass. This technique was used in Bohemia (today Czech Republic) and Silesia (today Poland) since the 13th century. Many of the best Bohemian glassware were originally trained in Venice, which was already the world's center of manufacture.
Bohemian glass is due to its original popularity in pearl-shaped fashion that swept Europe in the 15th century. The glass was faceted to imitate genuine beads in response to the demand for affordable but stylish jewelry. This created a large cottage industry to make pearls, which today are the most important products from this region. The technique of making Bohemian beads involved pressing molten glass into a mold, allowing the production of thousands of identical copies. The glass beads were then coated with gold or bronze metal paints.
The competition between Bohemian and Murano manufacturers had always been tough, even though they produced very different glass articles with very different techniques. Murano was always known for its unique glass manufacturing techniques, for blown glass and for objects made by hand, even for glass beads.
The Bohemian glass was cold processed crystal glass decorated by grinding, and the beads were and are still made of a machine. This split is extended to today's glass lovers who are also clearly divided for those who prefer a type of glass over others, especially when it comes to glass beads. Fortunately, for both Murano and Czech pearl manufacturers, there are enough fans of both kinds, to allow the thriving beads industry and thriving beads make hobby all over the world.