When it comes to choosing a gift that will be treasured for years – even generations – to come, there’s little that compares to a thoughtfully chosen, exquisite piece of jewellery. And there’s one jeweller whose pieces have proven to be especially unforgettable.
Since 1932, the name Harry Winston has been synonymous with the finest jewellery and most beautiful stones, making any piece bearing his name the ultimate gift to give and receive.
From the flawless 69-carat pear-shaped diamond that Richard Burton bought as a gift for his wife Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 – a stone first cut by Harry Winston three years earlier and re-named the Taylor-Burton diamond – to the dazzling Lesotho III ring that Aristotle Onassis proposed to Jacqueline Kennedy with, the house is behind some of the most iconic moments in jewellery history.
“Only the exceptional” was the motto of its founder – an ethos that lives on to this day – as the jewellery house takes the most precious of jewels, introduces a revolutionary design and the highest quality craftsmanship to produce the most special gifts.
A passion for jewels
Each Harry Winston piece comes from a long legacy of jewellery making excellence. Known as the “King of Diamonds”, there was no-one who knew jewels better than Harry Winston. His love affair with gems began at an early age, when it became obvious that he had an innate ability to spot the most precious of stones. He was just 12 years old when he saw a two-carat emerald in a pawn shop and bought it for 25 cents (the owner thought it was coloured glass). Two days later he sold it for $800. He went on to work for his father’s jewellery business before striking out on his own, buying up entire jewellery collections at estate sales and removing the stones to recut and reset them. In 1932 he founded Harry Winston Inc in New York City.
He travelled the world in his quest to find the world’s most beautiful jewels, acquiring many of the most famous diamonds in history. These included the 726-carat Jonker diamond, bought by Winston in 1935, which he famously sent back to his Manhattan headquarters via registered mail for $0.64. In 1938, he secured the Vargas, a 726.60-carat rough diamond discovered in Brazil. In 1949 he acquired the famous Hope Diamond, a stunning 45.52 blue stone once owned by Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, which he later donated to Washington D.C’s Smithsonian Institute. To this day it remains one of its most visited exhibits.
By the 1950s, Life magazine estimated that Winston’s collection was second only in size to that of the British Royal family –- whose members, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had themselves purchased several pieces of Harry Winston jewellery for their own collection. (“My friends tell me you have such beautiful things,” wrote the Duchess in a letter to Winston.)
One reason Harry Winston pieces became so coveted to both give and receive was because the jeweller found a way to present a stone’s beauty in ways no other had before him. “If I could, I would attach the diamonds directly onto a woman’s skin,” he once said.
He never quite managed that – but he did pioneer revolutionary new methods that honoured the individual nature of each stone, as well as the unique style of the woman they adorned. Contrary to jewellers that came before him, Winston believed that the stones themselves should dictate the setting of each piece – rather than being cut to fit one that already existed. “Each diamond has a different nature. Each diamond must be handled the way you handle a person,” he said.
Winston came up with a signature technique of “clustering”, where different cuts of diamond were set together at different angles, creating pieces of jewellery that captured the light from all directions. His pieces sparkled with unparalleled brilliance. No wonder then, that everyone from Hollywood stars to heads of state wanted to wear his jewellery.
Jeweller to the stars
Anyone wearing a piece from Harry Winston is joining a long line of notable stars – including Grace Kelly and Gwyneth Paltrow, who have worn his designs.
The jewellery house and Hollywood have a long-standing relationship. In 1944 Winston became the first jeweller to loan an actress diamonds to wear to the Academy Awards, dressing that year’s Best Actress winner, Jennifer Jones. Since then countless A-list actresses have relied on Harry Winston creations to provide their moment of red-carpet glamour.
His influence made it onto the big screen, too. Marilyn Monroe name-checked Winston while singing “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – and years later, in a nod to that same film, Madonna attended the Oscars in a white gown and $20 million worth of Harry Winston diamonds.
A commitment to quality
Harry Winston himself died in 1978, age 82, but his legacy lives on in the company he founded, with a commitment to using jewels of the finest quality and character.
Each stone is selected with strict criteria, and the skills and efforts of gemologists, designers and craftsmen combine in selecting the perfect stone and perfectly presenting its full beauty.
It’s not just jewellery that benefits from this ethos, but also an exclusive collection of timepieces for both men and women. Harry Winston’s horological history began in 1989 and the house has since
established itself as one of the world’s leading watchmakers, opening a specialist watch-making facility in Geneva in 2008. Whether a contemporary, sporty style or a high jewellery timepiece fashioned with dozens of precious diamonds, Harry Winston watches are distinguished by their “signature codes”, a series of design features and themes unique to the house.
A gift to keep forever
Creativity, rarity, quality – the same principles that guided Harry Winston when he set up his company more than 80 years ago, still apply to this day.
Whether it’s a piece of jewellery in the house’s iconic and signature cluster design, a handcrafted engagement ring featuring the rarest of gemstones or a timepiece that combines design heritage with the latest in watch-making innovation, a gift from Harry Winston is one that promises the very finest in quality and craftsmanship – as well as your very own piece of jewellery history.
Express your love this season with the gift of exceptional fine jewellery and timepieces from Harry Winston.
For more information, visit HARRYWINSTON.COM