Introducing Bertoia Gold

The 18k gold-plated Diamond Chair honors Bertoia centennial celebration

In celebration of the Harry Bertoia Centennial, Knoll is pleased to introduce the Bertoia Diamond Chair in an 18 karat gold-plated finish. The option, developed in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Platner Collection, pays homage to beryllium’s golden quality that Bertoia so favored. The Harry Bertoia Centennial is Knoll’s year-long celebration of the life and work of Harry Bertoia, who would have turned 100 this March.

Bertoia Diamond Chair in 18k gold-plated steel. Photograph by Knoll.

Recognized worldwide for his groundbreaking furniture designs for Knoll, Bertoia was primarily a sculptor. Immensely prolific, he is estimated to have created tens of thousands of sculptures over the course of his life, taking the form of screens, panels, mobiles and free-standing sculptures. Among the latter were his Sonambient works, designed to produce unusual sonic experiences at the touch of a hand or the sway of a breeze.

Two photographs of Harry Bertoia’s dandelion-like Sonambient sculptures. Photographs from the Knoll Archive.

Bertoia’s Sonambient sculptures also provided the inspiration for the release of the Bertoia Diamond Chair in gold. Knoll Design Director Benjamin Pardo explains the choice through a description of Bertoia’s material preferences. “Harry’s own work was mostly done in beryllium,” Pardo states, “including many of his Sonambient sculptures.”

Ingot of beryllium copper, the alloy favored by Harry Bertoia and the inspiration for the Gold Diamond Chair. Photograph by Knoll.

Beryllium is a copper alloy traditionally used to make non-sparking tools for working with a live current. A metalworker, Bertoia became interested in the material for its relatively low density and high elasticity—50% more elastic than steel—which resulted in unusually fast sound conduction and a consistent tone and timbre. The alloy was well suited for Bertoia’s formal experiments, through which he strove to emulate shapes and sounds of the natural world.

Bertoia Diamond Chair in 18k gold-plated steel. Photograph by Knoll.

“He used the hard, reflective surfaces of the metal to create the soft, flexible forms of nature,” says friend and scholar Julia Longacre. Willow trees, dandelions and wheat fields are just a few of the forms recognizable in his Sonambient works. Inspired in part by the music of Vivaldi and Mozart, Bertoia achieved specific tones and pitches by varying a rod’s length and thickness before executing the design using a spill-cast technique of his own device. Of the shape-giving process, Bertoia remarked, “I was giving emphasis to the metal. I was delighted to take a rod and bend it, it was part of my nature.”

Portrait of Harry Bertoia working in his studio in Bally, Pennsylvania, 1952. Photograph from the Knoll Archives.

The parallels between Bertoia’s furniture and sculptures go further than material alone. Bertoia saw his furniture as an extension of the principles and considerations of his sculptural work: “In sculpture, I am concerned primarily with space, form and the characteristics of metal. In the chairs, many functional challenges have to be solved first […] but when you get right down to it, the chairs are studies in space, form and metal, too.” If the Wire Collection represents the zenith of the formal, sculptural possibilities of metal, with the Sonambient sculptures, Bertoia shifted his attention to the more ephemeral qualities of the material: sound, light and color. In explaining his choice to abandon furniture, Bertoia emphasized the promise and pull of a new frontier:


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