Gold is the new black – Product Design edition

Every time has its popular aesthetics, every age has its colours, but what is it ours?

Black? White? Maybe once, but not any more. With this post I want to state once and for all that gold, and more extensively golden, had exceeded the limits of jewellery jumping into every day life’s objects and becoming a very common choice for all kinds of designers in the time to come. To show you the validity of my position I will guide you through some relevant steps of history of gold and its use in visual arts, design and architecture, in order to show you that the boundaries which used to convict this precious material have now been blurred.

This post in particular is the first one of a series of three and it will focus on product design, as you might have realized by cover picture with the Golden version of Iron man starring Apple Chief-Design Officer Jonathan Ive.

What else to say? Ladies and gentleman get ready, as stated in the J’adore perfume commercial, the future is gold!

1175 – 1190 – The Grail first appeared in the 12th-century epic of Perceval, whose French author claimed to have based it upon an earlier source but in this story, it is just an unusual bowl. Just a few years later, the Grail came to be seen as a holy relic linked with Joseph of Arimathea, the Christian disciple who offered up his own tomb for Jesus’ burial after the Crucifixion. Most sources identify it as a golden cup or chalice that was used at the Last Supper and/or at the Crucifixion.

A reproduction of the Holy Grail, made with gold and gems

1896 – Medals started to be given to successful competitors in the Olympics. However, gold medals were not awarded at the inaugural Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The winners were instead given a silver medal and an olive branch, while runners-up received a laurel branch and a copper or bronze medal. In 1900 most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals. The custom of the sequence of gold, silver, and bronze for the first three places dates from the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri in the United States.

London 2012 olympic gold medals

London 2012 olympic gold medals

1936 – Aviator sunglasses, or “pilot’s glasses”, were originally developed by Bausch & Lomb for pilots to protect their eyes while flying, thus the name aviator. The original Bausch & Lomb design is now marketed as Ray-Ban Aviators, although other manufacturers also produce aviator style sunglasses. They are characterised by dark, often reflective lenses having an area two or three times the area of the eyeball, and very thin golden metal frames with double or triple bridge (so-called ″bullet hole″) and bayonet earpieces or flexible cable temples that hook behind the ears.

Reyban Outdoorsman

1946 – Sinatra received a Star Super Model-A pistol. Likely gifted to Sinatra when he performed for a convention held by the Cosa Nostra (mafia) in Havana, Cuba. It is mounted with solid silver grips and the entire pistol is inlaid with gold and silver in fantastic geometric designs, some of which are inlaid gold and others are damascened.

Star Super Model-A pistol

1952 – Modern Art Deco Club Chair is art Deco at it’s finest. A custom crafted work of art by artisan furniture designer, Steve Holman, created with curly cherry veneers, wenge, exotic purpleheart, gold leaf and velvet. Gold foil became very popular during Art Deco, recalling natural shapes and classic motifs.


Art deco chair by Steve Holman

1976 – Gold standard finally abandoned for fiat currency system. This metal has been a valuable and highly sought-after precious metal for coinage, jewellery, and other arts since long before the beginning of recorded history. The historical value of gold was rooted in its medium rarity, easy handling and minting, easy smelting, non-corrodability, distinct colour, and non-reactivity to other elements.

Fiat currency from all over the world

1991 – Casio F-91 W was presented for the first time on the market. Since then the Japanese watch had an incredible success, despite the technology and the design stayed the same for 25 years. Recently the golden version of the F-91W had a huge increase in sales, due to its popularity in the fashion market.


Casio F-91 WR Gold

1999 – The fragrance J’adore was launched on the market. Created by Calice Becker e Francois Demachy, the fragrance became soon one of the most successful products of Christian Dior, thanks also to exceptional testimonial, such as Charlize Theron and Carmen Kass, and to the iconic packaging design of Hervé Van Der Straeten.


J’adore by Christian Dior

September 2013 – Apple launches the I phone 5s as its first product to come in the new gold colour. While many thought that the gold phone was designed for Asian markets — China and the Gulf in particular are often named as the targets of Apple’s golden touch — the models have took off elsewhere too. After the 5s was announced, the gold phone was often the most difficult to buy. Later many other apple products were made available in the golden colour and recently the I Watch was presented as the first design made in actual gold.


I phone 5s gold by Apple

2014 – Golden Magnum. I can’t say anything else about it, it’s just too much. Sorry.

Golden Magnum

Golden Magnum

2014 Kartell presents the collection “Precious” at Milan’s Salone Del Mobile, to celebrate 15 years of experimentation with the the technology of injection printing of polycarbonate. The collection consists in 15 products from renown designers, following the theme of the precious materials. The stand at the Milano Exhibition, as well as many products in the collection, where shiny golden.

Kartell Precious 2014

Precious collection by Kartell


2015 Studio Job has created a series of lamps shaped like peeled bananas for an exhibition at Belgium’s Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery. The gallery in the coastal town of Knokke is currently hosting The Banana Show: a solo exhibition of banana-themed art and design by the Belgian studio, founded by Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel in 2000.The limited-edition collection of Banana Lamps comprises seven different lights, designed to look like the yellow fruit.

Banana Lamps by Studio Job

Banana Lamps by Studio Job


Author: Luca De Stefano

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