Assembling an handmade Italian Murano Glass Chandelier


Over the years I have put together three glass chandeliers from Murano in Venice Italy. Today I assembled the smaller of the three. I have make photos of the various steps involved.  

murano glass chandelier hanging   murano chandelier from the bottom

This is the final product, the assembled and wired Italian Murano Chandelier--hanging at a height I like in the small bathroom.

 Its colored glass combines nicely with the glass mosaic tiles in the shower.

This particular lighting fixture was one that was not a custom order, it was hanging in a shop and I bought it outright and brought it home in a box as carry-on luggage. It was packed very compactly and even though I had the heavy box hanging from a luggage strap around my neck on what had to be the hottest and busiest day in July at the Venice airport, it made it safely all the way to Alabama by way of Memphis. The two Murano glass chandeliers that I have ordered and had shipped both arrived safely as well. They were packed differently from this smaller carry-on one. The shipped ones had all the pieces laid flat on sheets of cardboard and were plastic shrink wrapped to the cardboard and packed with excelsior between the layers and in a huge sturdy box (s).



Instructions might be included--but might be in Italian, rather than English like mine were. The line drawing diagram is a big help though. 


If you bought a chandelier  hanging in an Italian shop, lets hope you took a photo--it will help with the assembly as the included instructions are generic...not for your particular lighting fixture. 

If you ordered the chandelier and had it made for you, you may need to wire the sockets yourself. If you bought one already made, your arms and sockets may be already wired. Be sure to let them know if this chandelier will be used in the USA or Europe, you get sockets that correspond to the size bulbs sold in your country. 

If you are buying an antique chandelier--ask what voltage and type of sockets it is wired for. If you order one to be made, take a photos of the sample in the same style as you ordered. It doesn't matter if it has the same number of arms or not--it is the center post glass sections that you need to see. It is made up of many small pieces stacked, so you need to know how to stack them in the same order.

Unpack carefully--have a place where you can set the pieces out right in front of you, good lighting, nothing to trip on, no cats around, etc.. 


Set the arms, cups, flowers, aside and look for the metal center post and all tubular shaped & cup pieces that cover the center post. 







If you bought a chandelier that was hanging in a shop in Murano  it may be really dusty. Washing the intricate pieces before assembly is a good idea--but consider putting a folded dish cloth in the sink bottom as a precaution, just in case one slipped from your hand. Wash one piece at a time, if one fell, you don't want it to fall on another piece in the bottom of the sink.

The idea here is that one multi-strand wire runs from the ceiling down through the center rod and under the metal base plate, all the individual wires from the arms connect to the main center wires. 





There is a set screw on the top hanging loop that threads onto the center rod.  

After unpacking all the pieces and washing if necessary, find the pieces of glass that slide on the metal center rod. Your rod should have a couple of clear plastic washers. Use one of these at the top and one at the bottom where the last piece of hand blown glass meets the round metal plate that will hold the arms and decorative items. 

You will need to hang your Italian chandelier during assembly. A sturdy ladder can be used for a small one--these things are heavy, so for a large one, use scaffolding or rig up something really sturdy. You might be able to hang it from a overhead balcony railing. If you use a swivel clip on the top during assembly, you won't have to worry about the chandelier slipping off the hook and it will freely turn. This particular chandelier was small enough that I was able to do much of the assembly with it resting on a flat surface. The fact that the cups on the arms did not have to be permanently attached and could just be slipped on at the end, made flat assembly an OK choice. If you have a very large chandelier, like my 10 arm one, you will have to do most of the assembly with it hanging. 








This particular chandelier has cups that just sit on the rim around the socket. On my larger ones the cups were attached and there was a washer and the cups went on during assembly. If this is the case, you will need to make sure that you get them on in the right order and that is probably going to be at the time that you attach your sockets and before  you wire the arms.  My arms came pre-wired. If you are ordering a chandelier, ask for pre-wired arms with sockets of the type used in your country. I had to strip the insulation from the ends of the wires coming from the arms. You will need a pair of wire stripping pliers.

 You are going to slip the arms into the larger of the holes in your round metal plate. The wires run through to the underside of the plate. You will have stripped the end of the main center wires and you now gather one wire from each arm to be connected to one side of the stranded center wire. The group of wires is secured with a wire nut. 

European wire nuts are much better than American ones. In Europe they have a slotted head set screw so it hold securely. 

 This  chandelier came with two Euro style wire nuts, but my others did not. Just be sure to use good quality, metal lined wire nuts. Not those cheap all plastic ones that come free with lighting fixtures in the States. Ask at the hardware or electric supply store. You might want the winged type, but remember that all that wiring has to be covered by the remaining glass parts that slip up over them so size might be a factor.

As to the U.S. and alternating current and whether it matters which wire goes to which in the ceiling:

A note from a helpful Man who can fix things
As long as the sockets aren't hooked to any exterior metal, then it doesn't make any difference. FYI, the white wire (in the house) is the neutral and the black one is HOT. Are the metal parts of this thing hooked together? As long as the sockets aren't hooked to any exterior metal, then it doesn't make any difference. FYI, the white wire (in the house) is the neutral and the black one is HOT. Are the metal parts of this thing hooked together? They really need to be and they need to be connected to the ground wire, that bare copper wire in the romex. The rub is the possibility that one of the hot wire's insulation fails and contacts the metal. If the metal is grounded it just pops the circuit breaker. If it's not, then the person going up to change a light bulb could be in for a little surprise.


In the States we have alternating current (AC) and I have not worried about which wire was which, but in situations where you have direct current (DC) or think that the sockets need certain polarity, you will have to pay attention to polarity. If you don't know what this means--better get someone else to help you with this project--don't burn your house down.

  After all the wires are connected, you will place the metal cup inside the glass cup that hides the wires (if you have translucent glass) and slip it all up on the rod and secure in place with the screw on final do-dad that forms the last tip of the chandelier bottom. 

At this point, many chandeliers must be hanging. Mine was just so small (a five arm) and I was able to do it on its side. 


The base of the arms (the plug looking things) slip into the holes that fit them perfectly. The other holes will hold the fancy leaves and feathers and flowers if your chandelier has those. At this point the lighting fixture needs to be hanging. I used a sturdy ladder.

 This is how the metal plate looks with all the fancy inserts in place.

Tomorrow I need to pick up some chain and a ceiling cap--a matching ceiling cap is usually furnished, but wasn't in my box ! I need bulbs too, so I will wait to hang the chandelier in the bathroom until tomorrow--photos to follow. Always test your chandelier to be sure all the wiring is right and the bulbs all burn before you hang it. Remove all loose parts, all flowers, feathers, do-dads etc...before you attempt to hang the thing. You re-insert the decorative parts after it is securely hung. 



While it was still hanging from the ladder, I put a replacement electric plug on the end of the wires and plugged it into an ordinary extension cord to test to see if my wiring was ok and my lights were going to light before I hung the thing. Everything worked properly. Remember to remove the temporary plus before you get up on the ladder to hang the chandelier.

Packaged with my lighting fixture parts were plastic candle sleeves that are suppose to look like dripping candles to slip over the candelabra style sockets so you are not exposed to bare metal or wires. They might not be the right length but are easily cut with heavy scissors, or a hack or coping saw. If you don't cut off the extra length, your bulbs can't be screwed in. Put a sleeve down over a socket and take a little strip of paper to stick inside and  measure how much extra is sticking up above the top of the bulb socket. Mark it w/ a pencil. Then remove the sleeve, and hold the paper up to the bottom edge of the sleeve and mark how much you need to remove. Cut off the extra length and save your little ring of waste material so you can use that to mark the other candle sleeves. You can just snap it around the base of the others (see middle sleeve above ) and accurately mark all of them. (pencil line on right sleeve)

I experimented with some of the new energy-saving low watt compact fluorescent bulbs that are shaped like traditional candelabra bulbs. They are opaque looking white-white and just looked awful. It would be nice to have the low heat and cost savings of those bulbs, but the chandelier had no sparkle with them. I think this is a case where looks win out over economy. Also, I think the sleeves are just too white, so I plan to put a light wash of color on them to tone them down a bit. They look like carved soap to me. I'd leave them off altogether but I am afraid someone will touch the bare metal in the socket and get electrocuted (ME).

Hung the chandelier--but it was just too close to the ceiling !! Sooooooo.......

I clipped off the provided central wire and spliced in a piece of ordinary lamp wire and a strand of bare twisted steel wire (actually picture hanging wire that I had on hand). I used small wire nuts and knew that they would not show since the wide glass at the top of the chandelier's center post would prevent anyone from seeing them.

The new longer wires needed to be brought thru the threaded hollow tube thing (it probably has an official name) that screws into the standard lighting fixture mounting bracket. The 3 leads from the chandelier wires were attached to the romax wires in the junction box overhead with wire nuts after the whole thing was secured by screwing the threaded rod into the bracket.

 After the wires are attached, you slip the ceiling cup thing up flush with the ceiling (to hide your connections and the junction box) and secure it with the standard threaded ring. All these are standard U.S. ceiling lighting fixture hanging parts available at most hardware stores and all big box home improvement stores.

One more point of interest. 

The fancy glass do-dads that add so much to Italian glass chandeliers have aluminum cups on the tips into which they are mounted. These cups slip into the matching holes in the metal plate made to receive them. On this small chandelier, the width of the glass center post and the washers was such that there really was not quite enough room for the fragile glass stems to be easily inserted. Every time I had to place or remove the glass flowers and leaves, I had to struggle so much, I was afraid of breakage. To correct that, I used an ordinary nail file to file down the edge of the aluminum cups that would be facing the center post. See where arrow points. This slight reduction in cup flange made it so that the glass flowers and leaves slipped easily into the respective holes.


To see a larger Italian Murano Glass Chandelier in this same house, click here.

To see suppliers of glass chandeliers from Italy, click here.

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