Mary Waterfall, Jewellery Specialist
He was known as ‘The King Of Diamonds’ and ‘The Jeweller to the Stars’. He inspired a legendary brand based on the philosophy that jewellery design should be dictated by the gemstones themselves and not their settings. He used to carry around in his pocket some of the rarest diamonds in the world, worth millions of dollars, just for the pleasure of having them close by.
He is famed for saying “I love the diamond business. It’s a Cinderella world. It has everything! People! Drama! Romance! Precious stones! Speculation! Excitement! What more could you want?”. Perhaps his most well know statement: “People will stare, make it worth their while”
Harry Winston worked at his fathers jewellery shop and developed a keen eye for jewellery and gems from an early age. There’s a story that when he was 12, he spotted a green stone at the local pawn brokers which was supposedly glass and cost him 25 cents. It turned out to be a 2ct emerald which Winston sold a couple of days later for $800!
In 1920 he launched his first business in New York, The Premier Diamond Company, and in 1932 he opened Harry Winston Inc. His insistence on excellence, attention to detail, passion, discretion and knowledge attracted a high profile clientele including royalty, movie stars and business moguls.
Winston was one of the first big brand jewellers to truly understand the power of celebrity marketing. In 1943 the actress Jennifer Jones was adorned with Harry Winston diamonds at the Academy Awards. Ann Bancroft seduced Dustin Hoffman in the movie The Graduate wearing Winston diamonds, and not much else. In the movie Gentlemen prefer Blonds Marilyn Monroe sings those famous lyrics “ Talk to me Harry Winston…” in the song Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend.
In 1968 he used publicity to his advantage once again when the 601ct Lesotho diamond was cleaved on live TV! It went on to be cut into eighteen magnificent diamonds including the 40.42ct marquise cut Lesotho III which Aristotle Onassis gave to Jacqueline Kennedy as an engagement ring.
Throughout his career it is estimated that Harry Winston owned more than a third of the worlds most famous diamonds. Perhaps the most well known being The Hope Diamond. This beautiful blue diamond weighing 45.52cts is seeped in history and believed to be cursed. It is said to have attributed to many misfortunes in the lives of its owners such as King Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette. Winston purchased it in 1949 as part of the Mclean Jewellery Estate. He held on to it for ten years and exhibited it around the US as part of his ‘Court of Jewels’. He went on to donate it to the Smithsonian museum where it resides today.
Many recognised his jewels but few recognised the man himself. He was very rarely photographed and many did not know his face until it was published next to his obituary in 1978. Discretion was paramount to this man and it is said he had a concealed private elevator in his office so he and his VIP clients could come and go without being noticed.
Harry’s legacy lives on in The House Of Winston as they continue to deal with legendary stones. In March 2021 to celebrate what would have been Harry’s 125th birthday,they unveiled the Winston Pink Legacy Diamond ring, a vivid pink diamond weighing 18.96cts. Nayla Hayek bought the diamond from Christies in 2018 for a record breaking $50 million. It now forms part of the Incredibles Collection.
Harry Winston continues to thrive as a leading brand in the world of luxury jewellers, with stores all over the world including New York, London, Tokyo and Paris.
The breath-taking gems and designs continue to attract the rich and famous.
These stunning Winston Cluster earrings, composed of high quality diamonds with the largest pear-shape weighing 0.75ct, currently retail for £53,000.
When was the last time you had your jewellery valued? Please ensure your documentation is up to date to avoid a shortfall in compensation in the event of loss.