Glass Plays a Starring Role in Iconic Christmas Tradition

December 14th, 2021 by Luly Hernandez

Since 2018, the massive tree in Rockefeller Center has featured a star topper with a design that could have only been accomplished using glass. The star, designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, was brought to life with the help of glass manufacturer HMI Glass, based in Louisville, Ky.

Photo credit: Shutterstock, elisank79

HMI Glass was contracted to work on the project by Orion RED, an interior design element manufacturer. According to its website, Orion’s team of industrial designers, engineers and craftsmen worked with the European glass-accessory producer Swarovski and Libeskind teams for more than two years.

Swarovski contributed more than 3 million crystals to the 70 rays that adorn the 9-foot by 4-inch, 900-pound tree topper.

“[Orion] crystallized, beveled and polished the edges of the glass and glued the glass pieces and the Swarovski crystals onto the spikes,” says Leigh Berberian, creative marketing director for HMI Glass “[HMI] laminated and cut all of the glass. The sizes ranged from 24-inch long to 50-inch long spikes. And the type of glass was 1/8 inch low-iron laminated to 1/8-inch low iron with EVA clear interlayers.”

According to HMI Glass’ blog, each spike is attached to its own light, and the electrical component forms the core of the star—and when lit, each spike glows from within, with the light ultimately refracted by the topper’s crystal facade.

HMI faced a number of challenges working on this project.

“The notable challenge on this was lining up these pieces to laminate. Because it didn’t need to be tempered, the workaround that we came up with was to laminate full sheets and then cut the laminated triangles. There were 70 spikes total on the star, and each spike was like a three-dimensional triangle. So there were 210 pieces total,” says Berberian.

Jarrid Foster, a plant manager at HMI Glass’ Boston facility, also recognized difficulties in the project’s fabrication.

“When we’re talking about the challenges and how we ended up laminating the full sheets because … they got easier the more we made … You find out what doesn’t work and then modify that process to make fabrication seamless,” says Foster.

Berberian adds, that while HMI is known nationwide for its custom shower enclosures, their capabilities extend beyond that.

“Knowledge of boutique glass fabrication in our Boston facility and specialty glass applications set us apart and make us perfect for these unique projects,” she says.

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