As you start to think about Christmas presents, you may realise that there is someone so important to you, that you want to give them something truly special, beautiful and with an exceptional provenance, that will continue to give them quiet pleasure for the rest of their life.
This is when you may wish that I was there with you, so that you could ask me where you can buy genuine Murano glass in London.
If I was, and if you did, I would reply, William & Son in Bruton Street, for they have quietly built up a substantial Murano glass offer – of sculptures, vases, bowls, tumblers, wine glasses, and carafes.... I am so pleased that someone in central London has done this that I want to tell you more about what you can find if you visit them.
The well-known brands are there: for example, from Venini, the Oman glass sculpture, designed by Ettore Sottsass, shown above.
Idra, one of NasonMoretti’s collections of deliciously coloured water glasses:
From amongst the Carlo Moretti collections there, here is a vase (an Ellisse):
But most of what you see at William & Son, you would never find for yourself. Yes, a few makers do have showrooms on Murano that are open to the public. Mandruzzato is one. He specializes in “coldwork” – the often laborious but always highly skilled polishing and cutting that takes place after the glass has been formed in the furnace. Here are some of Alessandro’s glass boxes:
But with so many glass showrooms on the island, not all of them selling genuine Murano glass, how do you know which to go to? In fact, most of the very best glass is made by furnaces that are not open to the public. Behind anonymous doors, you would not even know that they were there. At least one of them can only be accessed through an unmarked door at the back of another. Others have no internet, no fax and they don’t answer the phone (because they are working). Most don’t have web sites. Instead, they sell directly to a small circle of galleries and retailers, mostly on the island and in Venice.
Cameron Peters has had a long and deep association with Murano. We have been the only reseller of Barovier & Toso in the UK, UK agent for Venini, and we are now UK agent for Carlo Moretti. We are developing our own collections of Murano glass lights. Now, thanks to our colleague Tania, who is based there, we have been able to introduce William & Son to the secret suppliers whose products will best suit them. One advantage of this is that prices are kept real because they are sourcing directly from the makers, not from middlemen.
Some of the secret furnaces do have showrooms. They may not be open to the public, but they are known to the cognoscenti. For example, ARS Murano, whose large Skittles sell particularly well at William and Son:
And Componenti Donà, of whose fish, big and small, they have just received a wonderful selection, just in time for Christmas. The simple, stylized shape is ideally suited to showing off various techniques, whilst also providing a sense of movement:
But many don’t even have showrooms, their beautiful creations being stored on dusty old newspaper-lined shelves:
By the way, not all the glass in the William & Son showroom is from Murano. Last week, they had one of the most mesmerizing glass sculptures that I have ever seen. It turned out to be made in Bohemia and from the collection of Alexa Lixfeld. As usual with glass, pictures cannot do justice to them...
…but, thanks to their amorphous shape and dichroic glass, even when standing right over them it is impossible to make out their true form – a classic example of a gift of glass that would continue to fascinate.
William & Son also incorporate glass with their own silver production – here, in a claret jug:
Even if you do not want to buy glass (imagine!), you should give yourself a real treat and visit the showrooms anyway. In a world where “luxury” means goods from big international brands that are heavily advertised, and which you can buy at airports, here is a treasure trove of the finer things in life, edited by the knowledgeable, independently-minded owners. Whether it is clothes, bespoke jewellery, their own leather and silver items, watches…there is one unexpected delight after another. And because the suppliers are small, craft-orientated businesses, prices represent very good value: you are paying for the quality, not for advertising.
So, now that I’ve solved your present-buying dilemmas, let me be one of the first to wish you a Very Happy Christmas!