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What is the Difference Between Venetian and Bohemian Glass?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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The main difference between Venetian and Bohemian glass is the style. While the Venetian style involves a lot of intricate painting, the Bohemian style uses more melting techniques and a bolder style of painting. Venetian works are typically more expensive and not as commercially produced as Bohemian glassware.

Bohemians traditionally made glass from ground quartz, which is silica, and iron oxide. This makes a greenish tinted glass that was used for regular daily items. Bohemians began blowing glass for trade in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Venice was a main trade center for glass beginning in the thirteenth century. Most Venetian glass was made on the nearby island of Murano and the Venetian Glassmaker's Guild was founded in 1291.

European glassmaking changed in the Renaissance of the sixteenth century when Venetians invented enamel paint. Although the Venetians tried to keep the technique a secret, the Bohemians adopted it as well. However, Venetian and Bohemian painting styles were very different. For example, families such as the Schurers of Northern Bohemia became famous for melting blue cobalt glass, while Venetian glassmakers are famous for their more delicate and less bold designs.

Bohemia is better known today for crystal manufacturing than Venice. Glass becomes crystal when lead oxide (PbO) is added to the basic glassmaking minerals with impurities such as iron, refined from it. Crystal is of maximum clarity and brilliance whether or not lead is present. But, PbO affects the durability of the crystal and aids in its ease in being cut. Today, the European Union (EU) considers a PbO content of 4% or higher as crystal and anything less than 4% to be glass.

"Overshot glass" is a bubbly, textured material that was first created in sixteenth century Venice and then became popular in Bohemia and other countries. It's formed by taking hot glass gobs and rolling them in finely ground shards, and then reheating the shards just enough to melt down any sharp edges. Today, most Venetian glassware is made by artists and is more expensive than Bohemian glassware which is often mass produced.

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