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Vase, 1872 V&A Museum no. 1188-1873
Vase, 1872 V&A Museum no. 1188-1873
Millefiori beads, 1920s
Millefiori beads, 1920s

Millefiori (Italian: [milleˈfjoːri]) is a glasswork technique which produces distinctive decorative patterns on glassware. The term millefiori is a combination of the Italian words "mille" (thousand) and "fiori" (flowers).[1] Apsley Pellatt in his book Curiosities of Glass Making was the first to use the term "millefiori", which appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1849; prior to that, the beads were called mosaic beads. While the use of this technique long precedes the term "millefiori", it is now most frequently associated with Venetian glassware.

Since the late 1980s, the millefiori technique has been applied to polymer clay and other materials.[2] As the polymer clay is quite pliable and does not need to be heated and reheated to fuse it, it is a much easier medium in which to produce millefiori patterns than glass.[3]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Millefiori Ball


This object is made by fusing millefiori canes into the surface of a rather thick bubble of glass. There are two types of canes: canes meant to be viewed from the side and canes meant to be viewed from the end. Millefiori canes are this type. They’re usually cut into small sections. A millefiori cane can be cold-worked to reveal a chevron pattern. In this video, three colored glasses will be used to create a millefiori bead. The first is opaque white. Molten, the glass appears colorless. As the glass cools, crystals form which create the opacity. This is an opaque red glass that similarly appears colorless and transparent when molten. The third is a transparent, intensely colored aqua. When the glass cools to room temperature, the colors reveal themselves. The first step is gathering glass onto the end of a metal rod. To get a sufficient amount, this is done two times. The glass is rolled back and forth on the brass table called the marver, and this elongates the mass of glass. This is lowered into a different color —here, opaque white. Marvering ensures an even coating. This is lowered into the transparent aqua glass. Excess is left to drip off. It’s marvered, and the excess at the tip is cut away. The goal is to produce a rather thin layer of aqua. This is pressed firmly into the dip or optic mold to create ribs, and as soon as it hardens, it’s lowered gradually into the pot of molten opaque white glass. Excess glass is trimmed free at the end. This is then pressed into a larger optic or dip mold. After slightly cooling, it’s lowered gradually into the opaque red glass. After reheating, it goes into another mold. The final layer will be opaque white glass. This is pressed into the dip mold, and after reheating, the cane is pulled. No matter how long the cane is pulled, and no matter how small the diameter, the pattern will remain intact. A simple machine is used to cut the cane into thin slices. The ball is made by gathering clear glass, marvering it to make the glass even, blowing air into the pipe to create a bubble, and then rolling the bubble over the preheated millefiori slices. The glass is reheated, and the process repeated. The glass is reheated and marvered to press the canes gently into the surface of the clear glass. Eventually the surface becomes smooth. The goal is to completely cover the bubble with millefiori canes, so the process is repeated. The canes are embedded in clear glass, so a second gather of glass is made atop the millefiori canes. Glassblowing now begins. To separate the bubble from the blowpipe, it’s necessary to make a constriction. Water is dropped on the constriction, the blowpipe tapped, and the ball breaks free. Only after cooling to room temperature do the colors reveal themselves.



Roman era millefiori style bowls in Museum Höfli, Bad Zurzach
Roman era millefiori style bowls in Museum Höfli, Bad Zurzach
Mosaic glass bowl fragment, Roman, late 1st century B.C.– early 1st century A.D., Metropolitan Museum of Art
Mosaic glass bowl fragment, Roman, late 1st century B.C.– early 1st century A.D., Metropolitan Museum of Art

The manufacture of mosaic beads can be traced to Ancient Roman, Phoenician and Alexandrian times. Canes, probably made in Italy, have been found as far away as 8th century archaeological sites in Ireland.[4] Millefiori beads have been uncovered from digs at Sandby borg, Öland, Sweden, dating apparently from the late 5th or early 6th century.[5] A piece of millefiori was found, along with unworked garments, in a purse at the early 7th century Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo.

Venetian millefiori bead
Venetian millefiori bead

The technical knowledge for creating millefiori was lost by the eighteenth century, and the technique was not revived until the nineteenth century.[6] Within several years of the technique's rediscovery, factories in Italy, France and England were manufacturing millefiori canes.[6] They were often incorporated into fine glass art paperweights.

Until the 15th century, Murano glass makers were only producing drawn Rosetta beads made from molded Rosetta canes. Rosetta beads are made by the layering of a variable number of layers of glass of various colors in a mold, and by pulling the soft glass from both ends until the cane has reached the desired thickness. It is then cut into short segments for further processing.[7]


Millefiori glass pendant
Millefiori glass pendant

The millefiori technique involves the production of glass canes or rods, known as murrine, with multicolored patterns which are viewable only from the cut ends of the cane.[7] A murrine rod is heated in a furnace and pulled until thin while still maintaining the cross section's design. It is then cut into beads or discs when cooled.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Millefiori Beads".
  2. ^ DiDominicis, Jill. "Polymer clay: a modern medium comes of age" (PDF). Ornamen Magazine. Retrieved 5/1/2018. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ "Millefiori technique in clay".
  4. ^ Susan Youngs (ed), "The Work of Angels", Masterpieces of Celtic Metalwork, 6th-9th centuries AD, 1989, British Museum Press, London, ISBN 0-7141-0554-6
  5. ^ Alfsdotter, C., Papmehl-Dufay, L., & Victor, H. (2018). A moment frozen in time: Evidence of a late fifth-century massacre at Sandby borg. Antiquity, 92(362), 421-436. doi:10.15184/aqy.2018.21
  6. ^ a b "History of millefiori".
  7. ^ a b c "History of the Murano Glass Pendant". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05.
This page was last edited on 2 December 2018, at 08:43
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