Arguably the most famous Christmas tree in the world, the towering icon at Rockefeller Center in New York City is decorated with thousands of lights and ornaments. But viewers’ eyes are inevitably drawn to the tree’s uppermost branches. There, more than 65 feet above the ground, a star like no other sparkles in the night sky. Commissioned by Austrian crystal manufacturer Swarovski, the mammoth tree-topper measures nearly three meters in diameter. Thanks to painstaking application of 25,000 tiny crystals atop individual glass triangles, light is reflected by one million glittering facets.
German artist Michael Hammers designed the work of art for Swarovski. He was inspired by another celestial body, a comet, that is only visible to the human eye because of the light – the light that makes ice molecules and dust shimmer and shine.
When less than the best is not an option
For the main structure of the star, which made its debut in 2004, Hammers chose Outokumpu’s stainless steel produced in Krefeld, Germany. Stainless steel was their choice of material to meet the most demanding aesthetic requirements. Metal processor Christian Pohl GmbH of Cologne, Germany, manufactured sophisticated edgings for the artwork.
In a 2009 upgrade, a team of nine artisans spent 1,200 hours installing additional LED lights and programming and testing the star to ensure the enhancements would withstand New York’s challenging winter weather. Additional lighting – 720 LEDs – along with 44 circuit boards and 3,000 feet of wire was squeezed into the star’s stainless steel core.
The resulting explosion of light is projected through the star’s rays. As the lights illuminate the central crystals and spread outward to the tips of each ray, a glow of light breathes life into an international symbol of goodwill.