A woman story

The origins of murrine can be traced back to 1000 BC in north-western Iran; mosaic glass vases were also produced in Roman times. The creation of the first murrina, the Rosetta pearl consisting of a ground and perforated multilayer glass rod, is attributed to Marietta Barovier, from Murano, and dates back to the end of the 1400s. Since that time, impressive quantities of pearls were produced in Venice and considered so beautiful and precious that they were used instead of money in most of Africa. In 1830 the Rosetta evolved and became one of the symbols of Murano glass: the millefiori beads. At the end of the First World War, African exchange pearls, replaced by money, lose their original function and become more and more an ornament. The pearls are finally rediscovered by the American hippies during their travels in Africa and are called "Love Beads”.

The bead industry was of particular significance and closely linked to Venice’s history and traditions. In particular it played a special role in female employment, starting with Marietta Barovier’s own creativity, and many Murano women have always worked in this sector. Of particular note are the highly skilled Venetian bead threaders, impiraresse, who for centuries, with their box (sessola), full of beads on their knees would sit outdoors in the alleyways and little squares, and were a characteristic feature of a “vernacular” Venice that was full of people and life (cit. museovetro)

In December 2020 the multi-secular Venetian art of the glass beads has been listed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The art behind the making of glass beads requires a rich understanding of the material of glass, and the element of fire. The candidacy focuses not only on the object itself, but also on the unique skill behind it and the socio-cultural implications of this art. See the Andrea Rizzo's video below for a full explanation of the art of glass beads, of which Italy and France are masters.