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Venetian Glass Chevrons
Tuesday, 25 November 2008 21:35

Rare Venetian Glass Chevrons
8x11mm 5 Layer RED.
Cut from old cane
$15.00 per bead

Venetian Glass - A Brief History

What are Chevrons?
Beads made in Venice and the near-by Island of Murano are among the most recognizable and coveted beads made worldwide. Venetian glass artisans have been influencing bead-makers from around the world for several centuries, and their production methods and designs have been most obviously emulated in many countries including India, America, China and the Czech Republic, many of whom buy their glass rods for making the beads from Murano itself. Many new collectors are surprised to find out that beads known commonly as "African Trade Beads" were made most profusely in Venice and Murano during the 15th and 16th centuries and beyond.

In fact, according to bead historian Louise Sherr Dubin the beginnings of Venetian glass manufacturing can be traced as far back as A.D. 600-650. Venice itself was founded in 568 by the Lombards. As far as the African trade is concerned, the Venetians produced many colorful designs, which were traded with African tribes for important items such as gold, ivory, and even slaves. This was definitely a study in relative value, since western culture considered gold, for instance, much more valuable than the glass beads that they could produce in mass quantities. To the tribes of Africa, on the other hand, these colorful beads became important components in both their rituals and personal adornment. Natural resources were plentiful on the African continent, but methods to produce the beautiful glass beads they desired were not.

In the 200-year period between 1200 and 1400, the glass industry in Venice became firmly established. By 1292 the industry moved to the close, but more isolated island of Murano, in order to protect Venice from fire and also to help keep their bead-making methods secret. Protecting the monopoly they had became top priority for Venetian bead manufacturers and merchants. The Council of Ten, the highest governing body of the Venetian Republic was given direct jurisdiction over the guild of glassmakers, and divulging trade secrets to bead-makers in other countries was seen as a form of treason that was punishable by death. Leaving Venice to start up a factory of one's own elsewhere was strongly forbidden as well.

The Venetians maintained their bead monopoly well into the 19th century, until the Bohemian regions (Czechoslovakia and Germany) bead industry began to gain momentum. By the early twentieth century Czechoslovakia took over the task of being the world's most prolific bead supplier, a title which they still hold today. Venice on the other hand, has also maintained its bead-making status, producing much of the world's finest, most sought-after and recognizable designs. As one can see immediately upon arriving in Venice, the bead and glassmaking industry is alive and thriving.


Bead-Making Styles & Techniques
The most well known beads produced in the Venetian region are usually made using the wound lamp-work (torch and mandrel) and drawn (pulled cane) methods. The lamp-work method is the most time consuming, as each bead is made individually. Using a torch for heat, glass cane (also produced in Murano) is heated to a molten state and wrapped around a metal rod until the desired shape is formed. Several layers of glass in varying colors, as well as gold and silver leaf, may be used to produce the desired effect. The bead is then cooled very slowly and removed from the rod, thus producing a hole for eventual stringing.

The drawn method, on the other hand, produces many identical beads in a lot less time. The cane, with a central hole, is simply cut into individual beads. The rods themselves are created by blowing molten glass into a hollow sphere, attaching each side to a metal plate, and then pulling the glass in opposite directions by two artisans thus producing a tube up to three hundred feet long.

The most recognizable styles of Venetian beads are the multi-layered "Chevron," the "Wedding Cake" design, with its frosting-like decoration, the Millifiore (1000 flowers) and the Venetian foils, characterized my their vibrant colors and decorative use of gold and silver foil.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 December 2008 20:57

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