"Murano glass is only made in Murano"
"Murano glass is only made in Murano."
This statement was written on a poster, greeting visitors in the Venetian airport. It summarized a centuries-long struggle to keep this Italian treasure intact, protecting it from global mass-consumption, which often confuses pretentious counterfeit objects for the real thing. It turns out that chemistry is on the Venetians' side in this struggle.
There is something, besides mind-blowing artistry of glass-making, in the mix here, which distinguished Venice from any other place in the world where glass is produced. In his book L'Arte Vetraria Antonio Neri describes the materials used for Venetian glass: it turns out that pebbles collected near river beds around Venice made that glass special. They had extremely high concentration of pure silica, that is essential for glass making.
The first mentioning of glass artisans in Venice is dated to 11 century. Neri's book that lifted a curtain of mystery but didn't reveal all recipes and secrets, was published in 1612. So it took 600 years for secret art to reveal itself - truly the best kept secret... According to Pliny the Elder, the first glass was produced by placing hot cauldrons on clumps of soda from sailors' cargo.
When the soda became heated and mingled with the sands "a strange translucent liquid poured forth in streams; and this, it is said, is the origin of glass." For centuries special soda was used - Levant soda ash, on which Venetians held a strict trade monopoly during Golden Age of Glass. It comes from the Levantine region and is produced by burning plants that are native to that area. Levant is a region immediately bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, between Red Sea and Mesopotamia, which in modern times is home for Israel, Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
Glass was not invented in Venice - but it is being perfected there, every day ...