Today, we associate the name “Harry Winston” with red-carpet events and starlets draped with the finest diamonds. While, it’s true that Harry Winston Diamonds does lend a considerable amount of exquisite jewelry to celebrities for awards shows, the story of Harry Winston is far deeper than the glitz of Hollywood.
Winston was born in 1896—the son of Ukrainian immigrants. His father, Jacob, was a jeweler, and as a small boy young Harry studied at his father’s side while working in the family’s shop. Legend has it that at the age of twelve, Harry made his first major purchase—an emerald ring that he found in a local pawn shop. He paid twenty-five cents for the ring which he then sold for $800. Thus began Winston’s life-long passion for acquiring the most exceptional jewels in the world.
When Arabella Huntington, the wife of railroad tycoon Henry Huntington, died, Winston purchased her celebrated collection of jewels—one of the most famous in the world. Winston then set about deconstructing the pieces, using the flawless gems to create his own works of art. As his fame grew, so did Winston’s collection of gems. Throughout his life, he acquired some of the world’s most notable gems. His collection included the Hope Diamond, The Portuguese Diamond, The Cornflower Blue, The Crown of Charlemagne, The Blue Heart, the Jonker Diamond, The Louis XIV Diamond, and The Star of Sierra Leone among many, many others.
As a designer Winston let the jewels do the talking. His designs were based on both natural and architectural forms crafted of flawless diamonds and relied on a clever use of precious metals to give the impression that the stones were a continuous mosaic. Today, thirty-two years after his death, his name continues to be associated with the most beautiful works of the jeweler’s art. His brilliance was only outshined by the shimmer of his work.