The island of Murano on the Venetian Lagoon has been known for its high quality, beautiful glass since 1291. Glassblowers initially were deported to the island because their workshops were fire hazards to the city of Venice. Once the glassblowers set up shop on the island they became famous throughout Europe for their craftsmanship. You can still visit Murano and watch the glassblowers at work. They produce colorful jewelry and knickknacks for tourists and collectors to bring home. Murano glass ashtrays are highly prized by collectors. You can find out if yours is valuable by checking in catalogs or getting it appraised.
Check your ashtray for the Vetro Artistico Murano mark. This mark was established by Veneto Regional Law no. 70 on December 23, 1994. All real Murano glass objects made as of this date bear this mark. The mark guarantees that your ashtray is real Murano glass.
Check the mark on your ashtray against the list of 45 Murano glassmakers you can find on the Vetro Artistico Murano website. All genuine Murano glassmakers are listed by this association. Most of these glassmakers are family businesses that have been producing glassware for years, in some cases, centuries.
Take out some catalogs from your local library and learn everything you can about Murano glass. Murano glass from the 1970s looks very different from Murano glass from the 1870s. Try to get an idea of when you think your ashtray was produced by comparing it to the examples in the catalogs. You won't find an identical match, but you should be able to find similar shapes and patterns.
Take a look at eBay. It's not advisable for a beginner collector to try to buy Murano glass online. There are too many fakes for sale and when you're buying online you don't even get the opportunity to hold the glass or inspect it in person; you must rely entirely on photographs. You can compare the ashtray you have your eye on to similar examples for sale in online auctions, though. Try to find ashtrays that are similar in size and form, with the same amount of detailing that yours has. Even if the one you find online is a fake, it should give you an idea of what the seller thinks a real one could sell for.
Take the ashtray to an antiques dealer and have is appraised. The dealer won't be able to do the appraisal herself, but she will be able to recommend someone qualified. The only way for you to know for sure whether your ashtray is a real, valuable Murano glass ashtray is to get it professionally appraised. Your appraisal will cost you a little bit of money, but it will be worth it to know exactly how much the ashtray is worth. Don't worry about paying for the appraisal if your ashtray is worthless; most reputable appraisers will tell you instantly if they recognize a fake and it's not worth appraising.
Elizabeth Hannigan began writing freelance articles in 2005. Her work can be found in "Orientations" magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in art history from the University of Delaware.