What is Millefiori Jewelry?
Millefiori is a glasswork technique of making mosaic patterns to create glass vases, lamps and jewelry. Although the Egyptians invented this way of bead-making several thousand years ago, the name Millefiori was given to the technique perfected by the Italians in Murano. Millefiori means a “thousand flowers” since the pattern looks a bit like blooming flowers.
Even though this type of glass was made for centuries, the secret of exactly how it was made was lost, simply because people lost interest in it. It wasn’t until glass paste mixer Vincenzo Moretti in Murano tried recreating the glassware that it regained popularity. It took him an incredible amount of time and effort to recreate the style, but once he did, it made the Venice and Murano Company that he worked for famous.
Making Millefiori glass is probably more complex than any other glassmaking technique and requires an exceptionally high level of skill. The multistep process used to make millefiori glass starts with glass rods upon which layers of colored glass paste are applied. Usually flower patterns are made which are then sliced into smaller pieces called Murrine. These pieces are then put together as in a mosaic, melted and pressed together.
This method of making glass is still used today in Murano, Italy. But unfortunately cheap reproductions have flooded the market. Millefiori jewelry is easily recognized by its trademark colorful flower pattern mosaics. But be wary of fake reproductions.
How to Identify Authentic Millefiori Beads
- The easiest way to identify an authentic millefiori bead is that each one should be unique (even if the differences are very subtle). They are not mass-produced, but are always made by hand lending individuality to each piece. There might be slight imperfections as well.
- Colors are usually quite vivid. Murano glass items are rarely transparent.
- These are considered luxury jewelry so the price should reflect that.
- Necklaces and bracelets will have beads on a hand knotted string usually with small metal spacer beads.
- Millefiori glass produced anywhere other than Murano island in Italy, is considered counterfeit.
Check out our vintage jewelry from the fifties and sixties, which include some genuine millefiori pieces.