Born in Venice on 16 September, 1912, Gino Sarfatti had a sheltered upbringing; his parents ran a successful business. He later moved out to study marine technology, but was forced to interrupt his studies at the age of 23 to help out his family in an economic struggle. Looking for employment in Milan for a while, he was asked by a family friend to use his technological know-how to turn a Murano vase into a lamp. The task was soon complete, with the light bulb supplied by a coffee-maker – and so was born his interest for lighting and luminaires. He founded Arteluce in 1939, opening a store in Milan, but was forced to flee the city for a few years during WWII, and Arteluce first received international attention in 1953, after the shop was decorated by Marco Zanuso.
During his active period, Sarfatti created around 600 luminaires, at least one per month. He was not shy about experimenting with materials – he was on the forefront of working with plexiglass in the 1950s and in 1971 he designed the first halogen lamp, becoming one of the most renowned designers of his generation in one fell swoop. His lamps were named with a numbering system: 0–100 for special wall luminaires, 100–500 for ordinary wall luminaires, 500–1100 for floor lamps, 2000 and up for hanging luminaires and 3000 and up for chandeliers. To add to the confusion, he reused numbers from lamps no longer in production, meaning that two completely different luminaires might carry the same number. His singular most famous work is the 2097 chandelier, also known as the Sarfatti lamp, sold by FLOS.
Arteluce and Gino Sarfatti became pioneers in the history of Italian design. In 1973, Sarfatti decided to retire and sold Arteluce to FLOS, an Italian design company. Gino Sarfatti lived in his villa by Lake Como until passing away in 1984.