5 minutes with… A Harry Winston wreath necklace

5 minutes with… A Harry Winston wreath necklace

Senior jewellery specialist Daphne Lingon explains why this exquisite 1961 creation — ‘almost like a piece of fabric’ — represents a revolution in diamond jewellery design. On 6 December, it will be offered at Christie’s for the third time

‘If you want a piece of iconic Harry Winston jewellery, this is it,’ says Daphne Lingon, senior jewellery specialist at Christie’s, of this diamond cluster wreath necklace from 1961.

The tapered band is designed as a series of pear- and marquise-cut diamond cluster links, each enhanced by a circular-cut diamond, the three largest weighing approximately 5.31, 4.92 and 3.91 carats. Mounted in platinum, the necklace can be separated and worn as two bracelets.

‘It’s an exquisite piece that really ticks all the boxes,’ says Lingon. ‘Its workmanship, quality, provenance — this is the pinnacle of what Harry Winston collectors look for.’ On 6 December, the necklace will be offered in the Magnificent Jewels sale at Christie’s in New York. 

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Harry Winston was the world’s most prominent jeweller, dubbed the ‘King of Diamonds’. His boutiques were the destination of choice for royalty, Hollywood stars and business moguls alike. The Harry Winston firm handled some of the world’s most famous diamonds, including the Indore Pears, the Hope Diamond, the Porter Rhodes and the Jonker.

An exquisite diamond cluster wreath necklace, by Harry Winston. Estimate $1,500,000-2,500,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 6 December 2017  at Christie’s in New York

An exquisite diamond cluster wreath necklace, by Harry Winston. Estimate: $1,500,000-2,500,000. This lot is offered in Magnificent Jewels on 6 December 2017 at Christie’s in New York

The story of how Winston hit upon the idea for the diamond wreath necklace is the stuff of legend. Returning to his New York home in the 1940s, he observed that the holly wreath decorating his front door seemed to be held together without any internal support; the leaves obscured the wire beneath them.

Winston went back to his jewellers and asked them to translate this principle to jewellery design, and to settings and mountings, Lingon explains. Ultimately, they hit upon a technique that allowed the stones to appear to float. ‘You don’t see the structure of what holds them in place, the intricate architecture of it,’ Lingon explains. ‘A Harry Winston wreath necklace looks like a fluid band of diamonds. As a design, it was liberating and enabled Winston to revolutionise diamond jewellery.’ 

Beyond being what Lingon calls ‘one of the more instantly recognisable Winston designs,’ what makes the 1961 necklace particularly meaningful for the specialist is that this is the third time Christie’s has offered it for sale. ‘It first came to us in 1986, when it was sold as part of the estate of Caroline Ryan Foulke. In 1996 it was sold as part of the estate of Joanne Toor Cummings — and now we have it back again,’ Lingon explains.

Lingon, who was at Christie’s for the 1996 sale, vividly remembers the necklace coming in. ‘When you hold it, it’s like a piece of fabric: the way it moves, its flexibility, the way the stones are mounted,’ she says. ‘To have seen it now twice in this 21-year period is quite special, and we are honoured that we have again been entrusted with the sale of such an iconic Harry Winston jewel.’