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When glass is an art form


When glass is an art form Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - It is one of the industrial sectors with the oldest roots, dating back almost 3,000 years, to when the secrets of Phoenician and Mesopotamian craftsmen were brought to Rome. The first kilns and glassblower's shops were set up, and with them came the first glasses and vases. They spread rapidly throughout all the regions of Italy where there was the right sand, and where, still today, the Italian glass industry is concentrated (www.assovetro.it): the Venice lagoon, the Adriatic coasts of the Marches and Abruzzo, the Apennines in Emilia, the valley of the river Elsa in Tuscany. An ancient tradition, then, which has always been backed up with research and innovation, to make Italy one of the world's most important producers of glass products, especially in the fields of artistic glass and crystal.

With around 20,000 employees, and an overall turnover of almost 5 bn per year, for overall production figures of over 5 million tonnes, the Italian glass industry is in fact the second largest in Europe and realises around a quarter of its turnover on international markets, above all in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain. But it is in the sectors of artistic glassware and crystal that this solid position is translated into undisputed leadership. And two production areas in particular embody excellence in Italian glassware: Murano and Valdelsa.

Today, there are around 260 companies on the small island in the Venice lagoon, most of them craft workshops, employing over 2000 people for a turnover in excess of 100 million. The products are of the highest quality, recognised the world over as unique. Moreover, since the Middle Ages the name and image of Murano (www.vetrodimurano.org) have been intrinsically linked to artistic glassware, with its extraordinary quality and creativity. Surprisingly, this curious concentration of glassmakers on the small island in the lagoon is the result of pure chance. Before the 14th century, in fact, almost all Venetian glassmakers' workshops were on dry land, but there were a series of such devastating fires that the authorities of the Venetian Republic ruled that this dangerous activity should be transferred to an uninhabited island, namely Murano. And perhaps this was also good fortune, because it made it possible to create an absolutely unique reality, which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

Of similar ancient tradition is the Tuscan glass industry, which also started out in the Middle Ages, especially in Valdelsa, between Florence and Siena. At the end of the 19th century the first large industrial glass producers were set up in Empoli, for the manufacture of an extremely unusual dark green glass, whose colour is in fact also known as "Empoli green". It was produced with sand coming from Lake Massaciuccoli, which is particularly rich in iron and, making it possible to produce intensely coloured flasks, bottles and glasses without the need to add pigments. Nearby, again towards the end of the 19th century, in Colle Val d'Elsa, there were also set up the first factories for crystal production. Some large quartz deposits in the zone began to be exploited and this permitted a rapid productive development and also confirmation on international markets. Today, almost all the Italian crystal industry is concentrated in this area, where there are five large companies and 40 smaller businesses, for an overall turnover of over 200 million per year, and accounting for around 2000 jobs. Exports represent almost 60% of production, and the focus is on extremely high standards of quality. This is above all thanks to the development of Calp (www.calp.com) in Colle Val d'Elsa, which, with over 1000 employees, is the second-largest producer of crystal in the world and alone accounts for 15% of the world market.
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