How to Spot Authentic Murano Glass When You're Antiques Shopping

Elizabeth Pash
Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

From House Beautiful

Photo credit: Diana Fujii

In our latest series, Elizabeth Pash, designer and owner of Elizabeth Pash Interiors & Antiques, will be sharing one item you should be on the lookout for when shopping for antiques. Get to know our Girl on the Ground, just in time for your weekend shopping!

Is there one word to describe Murano glass? Yes: glamorous. I love to incorporate it into design projects, and Murano glass lamps are always good sellers in my shop. To me, lamps, sconces and chandeliers are the jewelry of a room. Just like earrings or a necklace, these pieces are often intended as the finishing touches in a room, but they can turn out to be the star of the show!

Murano glass has been made for more than 1,500 years. Production has been concentrated on the island off Venice called Murano since the 13th century. This was Europe’s first major center of glassmaking, and its tradition and appeal remain vibrant today.

Murano glass lamps range in shape, size and color. Although it appears light and airy, the best quality glass is actually quite sturdy and heavy. When buying lamps, be sure they have some weight to them. The heavier, more substantial glass is what gives Murano glass its extraordinary reflective quality. Whether it's used on lamps, chandeliers, sconces or accessories, this glass complements all decors.

One of my favorite dealers in Murano glass is a lovely Parisian named Justine, who specializes in this glass and features a beautiful collection in her boutique. She says "this glass has always fascinated m,e and I am always researching new forms and colors. Also, there is a great creativity among the Italian and French designers from the '50s to today."

The most valuable pieces are signed by one of the glass masters. Some of the masters include Barovier, Toso and Venini. They are hard to find these days, and when they are available, they are quite costly (expect to spend at least a couple thousand dollars!). Also, look for how the light reflects. Beware of copies produced in China or Morocco-they aren’t as heavy, and the pigments are not as strong.

I am drawn to lamps with bold, beautiful colors, as they can add drama to an otherwise neutral room. Here are some of the best I have seen:

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

On the other hand, sometimes the more neutral lamps and chandeliers (for example, those in clear glass with silver or gold accents, called “inclusions”) add a bit of quiet elegance to a space that is not lacking in color.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

Using Murano glass is a great way to lighten or freshen a traditional decor. I like nothing better than to use a Murano lamp on a very traditional piece of furniture. It instantly adds glamour and a bit of glitz! Here is an example of this juxtaposition in the entry of a client. The English cabinet is solid and a bit masculine, whereas the Murano lamp adds a bit of levity and femininity to the entry.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

Some of my favorite Murano chandeliers:

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

Speaking of most unusual pieces, I spotted this beauty at auction. Designed by the Italian architect and designer Gio Ponti, this 12-arm multi-colored chandelier features blown glass “bobeches” on each arm. You can design an entire room around this stunning creation!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Pash

The next time you're out antiquing, keep an eye out for these showstoppers. You won't be disappointed.

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