There are many different methods a Murano glass-master can employ in the creation of beads depending upon the desired result. From variance in color to method, the manufacture of these beads is a careful and delicate process.
The process of Murano bead-making begins with the production of color canes, a task which, in and of itself, presents a glass maker with a significant challenge. The chemical compounds involved in color fabrication are extremely sensitive so they must be mixed with absolute accuracy. Whereas aquamarine is created through the use of copper and cobalt, ruby red is achieved through the use of a gold solution as a coloring agent. Other materials are used to create the other brilliant colors used in the manufacture of Murano’s famous beads.
Most Murano beads are made using the wound lampworking or torch and mandrel technique, an approach which was invented by a Murano glass-master in the 1700's.
The lamp-work method is the most time consuming mode of glass beadmaking as each bead must be formed individually. Using a torch for heat, Murano glass canes and tubes are heated to a molten state and wrapped around a metal rod until the ideal shape is achieved. Several layers of different colored glass as well as gold and silver leaf are used to produce the desired effect. After the bead is slowly cooled, it is removed from the rod which produces a hole for eventual stringing.
Wedding Cake beads, decorated with glass overlays featuring roses, swirls and dots and Venetian Foil beads, with their fusion of color, gold and silver foil are just two of the kinds of beads made using the lamp-work method.
Seedbeads or Conterie are quite small, round beads. To produce this tiny bead, hollow tubes of color are formed then chopped and re-fired for smoothness and shade.
First produced in Murano at the end of the 14th Century, these beads are made of a hollow cane and six layers of glass: white, blue, white, brick red, white and finally blue. After this layering of color, these beads are ground to produce patterns of 5 concentric stars with twelve points. The canes are then chopped into individual beads. The Chevron bead is distinguished by a red, white and blue zigzag pattern. These beads are also known as millifiori.
The vibrant and abstract Millefiori beads are created in a manner similar to that of Chevron or Rosetta beads with the exception that there is a wider use of colour and the cane is not hollow, but completely solid.
When the lamp-work flame was introduced, bead-makers discovered they could melt the canes and then blow the glass. Today this glassblowing is called the Filigrana or Filigree Method. To produce these beads with stripes of color and spirals, glass-makers lay canes of glass down then pick them up with a blow-pipe.