John Singer Sargent, Venetian Glassworkers (ca. 1880–82). Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
The Getty shop justifies a colorful goblet’s $45 price tag by noting that it hails from the Venetian island of Murano, “famous for its highly prized, collectible glass.” Walmart writes that a $57.95 plum figurine embodies Murano’s “richness of color, originality, and unparalleled craftsmanship.”
Stunning yet pricey, Murano glass is frequently hawked this way: as the epitome of style and quality. But what, exactly, makes it so special? And how did it become an international brand name with such strong resonance in the United States?