We enjoy a very privileged friendship with our bead makers in Venice and Murano. Doing business internationally has it risks, there are no “laws” which cover commerce with individuals and small groups. It’s all about relationships and believe me you don’t want to burn one of those bridges in Venice. Venice is a very small place and our industry of handmade, artisan bead makers, is even smaller. Everyone knows everyone and most often they are related families or by marriage.
We have been working with these wonderful people since 1993 when as neophytes we wandered the streets amid the heat of August, wondering where everyone had gone. During these decades we have encountered every one who makes beads or fuses pendants, and become known through the islands, investing both time and money into developing our suppliers. Some are easier to work with than others; however, the difficult, sometimes produce the most amazing beads!
Those who are willing to work with our ideas, collaborate with us and in turn, take our ideas and turn them into their own are our steadfast suppliers, friends, confidants, and family always welcome in our home for holidays.
With our OEM services we design the Murano Glass beads based on specific requirements of the large jewelry manufacturers, usually colors of the Season, patches of leather, fabric and sketches of their jewelry designs and armed with this we go to our bead makers with the requirements and the fun begins.
Sometimes we need to go to the Effetre factory in Murano to match canes for specific beads. The factory is not open to the public, but Muranese come there to buy their canes. Even after all these years, we need an escort of a local bead maker to enter into the warehouse and definitely no photography, but occasionally I can sneak a couple of pictures.
If the shape is new, it requires a trip to Carlo Donà, famed tool maker of Murano whose son Roberto has carried on his father’s tradition of making tools for the furnaces of Murano which is much more prestigious than making tools us lowly bead makers. (Yes in the eyes of the maestro who produce incredible works in the furnace, making beads is not so high on the totem pole!) Roberto can make any tool we need and he has a following around the world both in the furnaces and bead makers who have discovered the quality of the Donà tooling.
Then we make our first samples. While our bead makers are every bit the “artist”, we need production quantities, not just one bead. So many times we have to slightly modify the tooling or the design to make it easier to produce without loosing the beauty of our original design. As we always say, “No two are ever exactly alike“! That’s the beauty of hand made beads!
So we go through many stages, measuring the glass it takes, measuring the time it takes to make the bead, measuring the amount of 24kt Gold Foil, White Gold Foil or .925 Sterling Silver Foil. The time is of course the most expensive part of the bead and we can only come to a definitive time after having produced several hundred.
And we have to check the colors as different batches result in different colors. Red is our most difficult color and apparently also Effetre’s impossible mission as they tell us they have not changed anything, yet the shade is different each batch of glass. So for large productions we want to be sure to make it from the same batch. A batch of glass is about 250 Kilo (around 500 pounds) and they will not produce a new batch until the old batch, even if it is bruto (ugly) has been sold. We have to wait hoping some international customer will buy the excess as no one in Murano will buy it and then we can try again on the next batch.
At the end of a day where we may have argued over colors, techniques, delivery, designs, soccer teams and politics, there remains the friendship and time for a Brindisi (toast) together. And we enjoy a beautiful sunset looking towards Venice from Murano! And that’s the secret of getting the best beads in all of Murano and Venice.