The Little Green Gong
Everything we do here at the foundation has purpose and meaning behind it. In the case of the limited edition jewelry offerings, they serve a dual function. One, very true to our mission, is to make the experience of Bertoia jewelry attainable for a broader audience as Harry wished. The other, still true to mission but more practical, is to give that broader audience an opportunity to invest in the future of the foundation. Each limited edition reproduction is a piece of history in the making, as we work tirelessly for the preservation and promotion of Harry's legacy. (And incidentally, keep the lights on at our fledgling organization.)
Each item selected for a limited edition offering is carefully chosen and the decision made only after lengthy and detailed consideration.
Initially we offered one of the "fishbone" brooches that were so characteristic of Bertoia's creations at Cranbrook. It was an item that we had in our family collection and represented a crucial development time of Harry’s career.
The First Gong Pendant
The square pendant was in the collection of a family friend and was the perfect emblem of Harry's gongs and gong jewelry which happened in the 1970s. In fact, it was during the last few years of Harry’s life that he and a dear friend Kaare Bernsten were planning a series of gong pendants to make into limited editions. He died before it came to fruition, but we were able to bring his original idea to life.
The Bertoia Ring
The square ring, also in our family collection, fulfilled the need to offer something for men as well as women. It was our jeweler who suggested, correctly, that it was appropriate for both genders and we should make a wide variety of sizes. The ring was a study for Harry's own wedding ring, a square gold affair without a slit that sat in his top dresser drawer (a Nakashima) for his entire marriage. As fate plays into it, several couples of both persuasions have used the limited edition rings as their own wedding bands.
The Round Gong
One of our favorite Bertoia galleries, Lost City Arts, who had purchased quite a few of the square pendants, suggested we offer a round gong pendant. It just so happened that my cousins (Harry's sister Ave’s children) owned a simple but elegant round pendant. Thus blossomed the round pendant with an off-center circle. We still have one of the gold ones available, but the silver ones sold out in record time.
Interested in making an offer on the gold pendant? Visit our shop for more information.
The Little Green Gong
I knew that the time was approaching when we needed another beautiful jewelry piece, as we were running out of inventory. I really had nothing specific in mind, but the need and thought was lurking around my brain. Then I saw it! Colen, a dealer, emailed me with photos of his latest acquisition and it immediately caught my heart. I literally gasped at this miniature gong's stunning shape and patina. While the original was an actual gong about 12" wide, we transformed it into a pendant.
Friends & Alloys
During the latter part of Harry's experimentation with sounding sculptures, or Sonambient as he called them, he became obsessed with finding the perfect alloys to create the tones he wanted. He tried all kinds of metals and combinations including monel, Inconel, bronze, brass, copper, and even aluminum. He discovered that beryllium copper delivered the most resonant and full bodied sounds of all the metals.
Driven by his quest for perfection, he found a metal supplier who would work with him to achieve his tonal goals. Clarence Haack, the owner of a California metal supply company, found a friend in Harry and understood his need for specific alloys. Harry would say, for example, "Clarence, let's try a little more nickel and a little less copper in our next batch of beryllium copper. I think it will sound like church bells." And Clarence would make the new concoction. They worked together for decades.
Whenever Harry had business in California, he made a point to visit Clarence Haack. He often brought small sculpture gifts for him as a token of his appreciation. I suspect they talked metal all throughout friendly dinners with some good Chianti and medium rare steaks. Clarence is long gone, and now his son is slowly liquidating his Bertoia collection, which had grown to an admirable selection over the years. This little green gong was for sale by Colen, our dealer friend. We at the foundation could not afford to purchase it (offered at $24,000) but definitely kept track of it.
I finally got the courage to ask Colen if he might be open to the foundation making a limited edition jewelry item in the same shape as his gong. All of our previous pieces had been in our own possession or that of friends or relatives. Now this may seem like a simple question, but it's really not! While technically the foundation (along with the other family members) hold all intellectual rights to all Harry Bertoia pieces, individual owners may not be aware of or amenable to that fact. So, with trepidation, I gingerly asked if we could trade the opportunity to make a limited edition for one or two of the resulting pendants. To my delight, after explaining our mission and purpose with limited editions, Colen of Canada agreed wholeheartedly and gave us all the hi-res photos we needed. The first step was accomplished.
The next phase of the pendant extended into a much longer time period than expected but with stellar results. Our spunky and dedicated jeweler, Marina Kessler of Bozeman, worked hard and long in experimenting with patinas, textures and finishes. We realized that the green patina would not be practical for a fine piece of jewelry because of how it darkens any skin it touches. Although the green patina was one of the allures, we sacrificed it for an even more alluring texture.
After months of testing, shaping, discussing, and reshaping, we finally arrived at the perfect pendant. While it looks rather simple, albeit elegant, the texture is a complex combination of sandblasting, tumbling for a weekend, and finally sanding and edging.
The finished result, while glowing and polished, pays tribute to the original green patina in the elusive, changeable patterns as light plays across the surface.
Then came the choice of whether to hang it from a silver chain or a black leather cord. We ran a social media question to get our fans' thoughts. It was a mixed bag of opinions, some quite strong ("Love love love that silver chain!" "Definitely the black cord!") but a fun way to interact with our people.
We decided to go with the silver chain, but offer the black leather as an option. Click here to visit our Shop and order your own alluring silver pendant.
So, as you can see, each item has its own unique story. This one stretched over a year for the actual process of achieving the pendant, but extends for many years when you remember Harry's friendship with Clarence!
Clarence, Harry, Colen the dealer, Marina the jeweler, and those of us at the foundation who made it happen, cheers to you all!
— Celia Bertoia