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Harry Bertoia's Jewelry Design

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Midcentury-master Harry Bertoia's oeuvre includes iconic furniture, prints and drawings, sculpture, jewelry, and more. His daughter Celia recently spoke at San Francisco's Zinc Details as part of the Design Salon series. In case you couldn't make it, we sent her a few questions about what it was like to grow up in a creative family, about her father's legacy, and why Bertoia signed very few of his works.
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  Prolific midcentury designer Harry Bertoia experimented with jewelry throughout his career. "He did more detailed things with his jewelry, because it is smaller scale and more easily manipulated," his daughter Celia says. "Also, his jewelry is quite playful in a way that neither the chairs nor the sculpture is."
    Prolific midcentury designer Harry Bertoia experimented with jewelry throughout his career. "He did more detailed things with his jewelry, because it is smaller scale and more easily manipulated," his daughter Celia says. "Also, his jewelry is quite playful in a way that neither the chairs nor the sculpture is."
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  "Metal was in his blood," Celia says of her father's natural aptitude with the material. "He had a real affinity toward metal and knew the qualities of each type of metal and alloy and as he learned how to create jewelry, he learned more about the qualities of metal."
    "Metal was in his blood," Celia says of her father's natural aptitude with the material. "He had a real affinity toward metal and knew the qualities of each type of metal and alloy and as he learned how to create jewelry, he learned more about the qualities of metal."
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  Bertoia did much of his experimentation with jewelry while he attended Cranbrook in the 1940s. "I think the jewelry was really his foundation and his learning process, to get the understanding of metal that he needed," Celia says. Some of the pieces appear to be precursors to his later work. "There were some brooches that were wire, like wire cages with pebbles inside, or gems. And in some ways those remind me of the chairs, because of the wire construction," Celia says.
    Bertoia did much of his experimentation with jewelry while he attended Cranbrook in the 1940s. "I think the jewelry was really his foundation and his learning process, to get the understanding of metal that he needed," Celia says. Some of the pieces appear to be precursors to his later work. "There were some brooches that were wire, like wire cages with pebbles inside, or gems. And in some ways those remind me of the chairs, because of the wire construction," Celia says.
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  "Some of his brooches look little creatures," Celia says. "He did all kind of sculptures like that, too, that suggested something organic or something alive. You couldn’t quite tell what it was, but looked very natural. I would say that the jewelry and the sculptures both have that."
    "Some of his brooches look little creatures," Celia says. "He did all kind of sculptures like that, too, that suggested something organic or something alive. You couldn’t quite tell what it was, but looked very natural. I would say that the jewelry and the sculptures both have that."
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  A pin by Harry Bertoia.
    A pin by Harry Bertoia.
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  A necklace by Harry Bertoia.
    A necklace by Harry Bertoia.
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  Reproductions of Bertoia's jewelry, like this ring design, can be purchased at harrybertoia.org.
    Reproductions of Bertoia's jewelry, like this ring design, can be purchased at harrybertoia.org.

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