Murano glass challenges the counterfeiters

With a crack the piece of Murano-style glassware shattered amid the murmurs of journalists, architects and students. The fatal blow to the piece of imitation Murano glass was dealt by Gianni De Checch…

With a crack the piece of Murano-style glassware shattered amid the murmurs of journalists, architects and students. The fatal blow to the piece of imitation Murano glass was dealt by Gianni De Checchi, director of the Venetian Confederation of Artisans (Confartigianato) during a recent conference at the Triennale in Milan. The “clone”, like millions of others from European countries and north America, had come far, thanks above all to its undeserved “Murano Artistic Glass” label, or simply because of the Murano name. The Glass Promotion Consortium of Murano, which manages the trademark, had chosen the Triennale, a location with special place in the history of Italian design, to declare war on cheap, counterfeit Murano glass which is invading fairs, shops and market stalls and threatening the master craftsmen even in their hometown of Venice. Among the initiatives aimed at relaunching the image of Murano glass is the international competition “The Hearth of Venice” launched in 2006, in the hope of recapturing that slice of the market lost to competitors in recent years thanks in part to the very low labour costs of Asian countries. “In 2002, exports accounted for 60% of sales, today it“s down to 47% of turnover, around EUR 157 million in 2006, said Gianfranco Albertini, president of the Glass Promotion Consortium, which represents around 70 manufacturers in Murano. “This is due to the aggressiveness of the Chinese, but we know the trademark can help us a great deal. All around the world, and above all in the big American stores, customers no longer seem content to buy glassware which is all the same, as happens in the major retail chains. Customers have again started to demand different types of glass, with a story behind them, but above all they want a trademark like ours as a guarantee”. “I“m not pessimistic”, he added, “although we face great difficulties. Today, even in China, imports of top quality Murano are on the increase. We need to help the master glassworkers make room for youngsters and give the youngsters the chance to learn and improve their skills”. The Consortium“s plans to defend itself from the attack of the clones include an intense trade fair campaign from Italy to Germany and the US during which the Consortium has had numerous opportunities to relaunch the image of Murano and get it back into the most beautiful boutiques and onto the shelves of the major retailers. “We are surrounded and targeted by counterfeiters wherever we go. At Macef, Euroluce, Vitrum in Milan and Ambiente in Frankfurt, teams of expert lawyers are freely available to clamp down on and close the stands of counterfeiters but the procedures are too complex” said designer Aldo Cibic. Mr. Cibic maintains that if international sales have fallen, the low labour costs of Asian countries where the Murano clones originate is not entirely to blame. “More courage is called for, to sell a creative reality and a thousand year-old history in the best way possible through the choice of markets, designers and initiatives. The results can come because the most beautiful buildings and hotels going up everywhere are furnished with Murano glass”. The Hearth of Venice annual competition launched in 2006 has delivered more than expected, said Mr. De Checchi, with 350 competitors and more than 200 projects from 41 countries. Such is the level of quality and creativity that the jury, presided over by Mr. Cibic, has increased the number of finalists. The chosen 21, including five from Asian countries, will be able to enter the legendary Murano glassworks for the five-day workshops dedicated to the realization of their designs. In March the jury will judge the prototypes and chose the winner who will take away a prize of EUR 2,500. On 3 April 2007 at the Venice Casino the items created will be auctioned with the proceeds going to the UN world food programme. In the meantime, the promotion of the trademark and the Consortium will intensify with a permanent presence in a New York showroom.