A Carnavale or Commedia Dell'Art mask is a keepsake a tourist can find anywhere in Venice. The art of masking is more than 300 years old and many local artisans practice the traditional construction techniques. Carnavale masks are colorfully painted and lace strings flow from the sides. The Commedia masks are usually wood and the craftspeople gild them in silver or gold.
Although there are some shops that specialize in junk, there are several that create their own masks by hand. The quality is unmistakable when you find it. Instead of a "Made in China" stamp on a cardboard surface, the mask is intricate and the construction is superb. La Bottega dei Masacreri, Benor Maschere, and Cavalier are top rated mask shops near the Rialto Bridge.
Beware of souvenir clutter and imports with all vendors. Glassware and jewelry can either resemble the cheapest knick-knack or divine artistry. Buy it on the spot is the rule of thumb. In the event that a traveler crosses paths with real Venetian pearls (glass beads) or other quality consumer goods, the street vendor may disappear an hour later.
Designer label and clothing detectives should shop in Verona instead of Venice. Although Verona is as expensive, it draws smaller crowds and the shops are organized into Via Mazzini. Via Mazzini is a full mile of designer clothing and jewelry shops situated between the Arena and Piazza dell Erbe. Stop for cafe and dessert on the way to Armani, Gucci, or Louis Vuitton.