Author. Nicole Anderson, of The Glory of Beads-The Rise & Fall of the Societa Veneziana per I’lndustria della Conterie’
Read Her Story Below
Since 1988, I (Nicole Anderson) have been living in Venice, Italy. Having married an Italian, I was granted Italian citizenship. Young and naive, the marriage was short-lived. On account the separation took several years to finalize, I continued to live and work in Venice. I found jobs working in the Murano glass industry where I discovered Venetian glass beads and was immediately enamored with their beauty and artistry. For twenty years, I enjoyed working in glass stores situated around the commercial centers of Venice and Murano.
In the summer of 2013, Francesco and I met at the annual celebration of the Feast of San Pietro in Castello, Venice. At the time, I was no longer working in Murano and was embarking on a new chapter of my life; I became self-employed as a Venetian bead dealer and I was writing a book on the production of beads. Owning a small flat in Venice, and having dual citizenship, I toggled between the United States and Italy every year, sometimes twice a year. Spring and summer were the months I spent in Venice hunting and gathering the beads, frequenting antique markets in the Veneto region, doing research and interviews for my book, visiting friends, and attending many summer festivities in the local squares.
When Francesco and I met, he was working as the coordinator in the city museums in Venice, which included the Murano Glass Museum. After two years of dating, we got married. Francesco quit his job, moved to the United States, obtained his Green Card, and embraced the trade of Venetian glass beads. He now takes a great interest in antique murrine made by Giacomo Franchini (late 1800s) in addition to contemporary murrine made by the late Mario Dei Rossi and his son Antonio.
The beads we sell are AUTHENTIC Venetian glass beads. We buy them directly from the local artisans in Murano and/or Venice. The term “Murano glass beads” or “Venetian glass beads” share the same significance. However, back in the late 1800s, the lampwork production of glass beads was situated in Venice and that is why they are typically called “Venetian glass beads.” Today, lampwork beads are being produced in both Murano and Venice. Francesco and I carefully select all the beads and, according to the requests of customers or current trends, we order specific shapes, sizes, colors, millefiori, gold foil, silver foil, and so on. Sometimes I will suggest a design of a bead to an artisan, adding my own style or shape; other times I’ll propose the pattern of an antique bead (my favorites) and have the artisan reproduce it. Please know that we do not make the beads ourselves. There is an English proverb I love, “Leave the coattails for the tailor.” Many of these Murano/Venetian artisans have been creating glass beads for dozens of years, sometimes a lifetime, and they are experts at it. Notwithstanding I have a strong interest in the history of Venetian glass beads, I have no interest in putting my hands near the fire. I’d rather be creating jewelry, collecting beads, or throwing a Frisbee.
Our inventory is primarily high-quality Venetian glass lampwork beads, but we do allow vintage Swarovski crystals in our cache of items because the Venetians oftentimes incorporated these faceted crystals in their necklaces. We also have many Italian vintage clasps and components—-all found in the antique markets in the Veneto region. We sell beaded jewelry, Murano home décor items, Venetian antique beads and necklaces, chevron beads, blown beads, and vintage seed beads.
While in the States, we travel nationwide doing trunk shows in bead stores. As a Detroiter, the mini-van we use cramps my style (I’d rather be driving a Mustang), but it certainly accommodates the hundreds of pounds of beautiful Venetian glass beads. We drive to Tucson every year for the International Gem & Mineral Show where we exhibit in Green Valley — 30 miles south of Tucson—in a luxury condo open to the public. We do shows in California, Las Vegas, New Mexico, Texas, New Orleans, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Michigan. We are always interested in expanding our business and doing more shows in bead stores, glass galleries, and bead societies.
Why trunk shows? What’s the benefit? Why not big bead shows? Many years ago, I exhibited in several bead shows and the booth fees were very expensive, leading to the anxiety of covering this expense. Furthermore, during these shows, there were several “Murano glass” bead vendors—selling false Venetian beads for nickels and dimes. All too often, I was defending my product while continually battling the price wars. The counterfeit “Venetian” glass beads were being sold on a strand of thirty for $2. How can anyone compete with that? Discouraged and surrounded by cheaply false imports, I removed my beautiful, artistic beads from this unfavorable environment and discovered a new venue where they would be appreciated and admired—-bead stores. Perhaps in the future we will exhibit in a carefully selected bead show but for now, we’re content to exhibit in bead stores where we are warmly welcomed. We have become very fond of the store owners, staff, and regular customers who oooh and ahhh over our vast selection of beads and who thank us for coming. Sales are more personable at a trunk show, allowing us time to collaborate in the design of a necklace, assist in the selection of beads, and educate our inquisitive customers. We too learn new beading techniques and information from the store owners. The other added benefit of a trunk show is that there’s usually a domestic pet in the store and that always brings us joy and entertainment.
We take proud in our magnificent selection of beads, all made in Venice/Murano. We enjoy the cultural exchange between Italy and the United States. We love what we do, we love what we sell, we love meeting new people (in addition to hooking up with fellow bead enthusiasts), and we love traveling across this great nation of ours. We’ve yet to embrace online bead sales, preferring the old-school method of a traveling salesman where we can witness the marvel on the faces of our customers as they look at our treasures. This traditional method of sales is quite laborious, costly, and tiresome so perhaps one day we’ll jump on the Internet bandwagon, but for now, God willing, we’ll continue to travel and bring Venetian beads to your hands where they can be seen and touched, examined and approved, charmed and dazzled. We feel we are blessed and thank God every day for our lives, our health, the Detroit-made vehicle that continues to carry our beads and return us safely home, and we are humbled by the warmth and appreciation of all our customers.