Glass makers on the Italian island of Murano, prized through the centuries for their unique skills, face the global financial crisis.
Murano glass is admired around the world for its refined beauty, but the credit crisis is threatening to shatter the fading Italian craft industry.
Relentless competition from producers in countries like China has been blamed for cutting Italian sales in half.
A strong euro has also been cited, leading to a slump in the US glass market.
In recent years three quarters of Murano glass workers have lost their jobs.
Many remaining workers fear for their future.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ACHILLE ERACLITO, GLASS WORKER, SAYING:
"We are in deep crisis. A lot of workers are staying at home and a lot of glass factories are shutting down because there is no demand. Unfortunately, that's the situation."
Glass workers say the days of Americans lining up to tour showrooms are long gone.
Factory owner Giovanni Cenedese says the industry needs to look to new markets where Murano is less known.
(SOUNDBITE) (Italian) GIOVANNI CENEDESE, FACTORY OWNER, SAYING:
"There is a crisis, it's true. This means we need to be careful and try and change markets: not the U.S. anymore because their market is saturated, not Europe anymore. We need to turn to Russia, to China, to India and to the Arab Emirates. I think we need to bet on high level luxury products."
Murano is an island about one and a half kilometres north of Venice, and artisans have been making glass there since the 13th century.
It became the centre for European glass-making in the Middle Ages, and Murano products have been prized for their craftsmanship for centuries.
Jim Drury, Reuters
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