Collecting guide the jewels of Harry Winston

Collecting guide: the jewels of Harry Winston

We examine the glittering legacy of Harry Winston, the New York jeweller dubbed the ‘King of Diamonds’ — illustrated with lots offered at Christie’s

American jeweller Harry Winston (1896-1978) founded Harry Winston Inc.  in 1932 in New York City. Over the course of his dazzling career, Winston handled some of the world’s most famous diamonds, coloured gemstones and pieces of fine jewellery, earning himself a reputation as ‘The King of Diamonds’.

An important diamond ring. Estimate HK$6,800,000-9,500,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

An important diamond ring. Estimate: HK$6,800,000-9,500,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A ruby and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Estimate HK$80,000-120,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A ruby and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Estimate: HK$80,000-120,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

From the 1950s through to the 1970s, his boutiques were the destination of choice for royalty, Hollywood stars and business moguls alike. Acknowledged as a visionary in the field for his pursuit of excellence, Harry Winston's combination of passion, discretion, intuition and knowledge was greatly appreciated by his high-profile and discerning clientele.

A sapphire and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Estimate HK$4,800,000-6,500,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A sapphire and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Estimate: HK$4,800,000-6,500,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

An important diamond necklace, Harry Winston. Heart, marquise, pear and circular-cut diamonds, the front seven heart brilliant-cut diamonds, platinum, 44.0 cm, signed Winston. Estimate HK$3,800,000-5,800,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

An important diamond necklace, Harry Winston. Heart, marquise, pear and circular-cut diamonds, the front seven heart brilliant-cut diamonds, platinum, 44.0 cm, signed Winston. Estimate: HK$3,800,000-5,800,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

Jeweller to the stars

Harry Winston started dressing celebrities as early as 1935, the year that he purchased the 726-carat diamond, The Jonker. Winston took the rough gem on a tour of the USA and had it photographed with famous actresses, including Claudette Colbert and Shirley Temple. The Jonker was subsequently cut into 13 very important stones, numbered I to XIII. The Jonker V (below) was sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2019 for £3,015,000.

The Jonker V, Harry Winston. Sold for CHF 3,015,000 on 15 May 2019 at Christie’s in Geneva

The Jonker V, Harry Winston. Sold for CHF 3,015,000 on 15 May 2019 at Christie’s in Geneva

Winston was also the first jeweller to dress a celebrity for an Academy Awards show. In 1944 he loaned diamond jewellery to actress Jennifer Jones, who had been nominated for her role in The Song of Bernadette. Harry Winston jewellery has graced the red carpet ever since. 

In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe sang Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, which includes the lyric: ‘Talk to me Harry Winston, tell me all about it.’

An impressive diamond fringe necklace, by Harry Winston. Sold on 15 November 2016 at Christie’s in Geneva

An impressive diamond fringe necklace, by Harry Winston. Sold on 15 November 2016 at Christie’s in Geneva

The Court of Jewels tour (1949-1953)

While Winston acquired many notable private collections, diamonds and gemstones, perhaps the most recognisable was the Hope Diamond, the largest-known deep blue diamond in the world. Winston acquired the jewel, which weighed 45.52 carats, in 1949 from the estate of the American socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean.

From 1949 to 1953, Winston toured the gem around the United States as part of his Court of Jewels exhibition, with proceeds benefitting charitable organisations. The tour was a defining moment in the jewellery industry, with Harry Winston presenting famous jewels as an art collection, telling the story of their historic provenance. In 1958 Winston donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., where it remains today.

A number of the exceptional gems and jewels from the Court of Jewels  tour are now considered historic pieces, with a majority entering important private collections or museums. These include the Indore Pears that Harry Winston bought from the Maharajah of Indore, and which were sold at Christie’s in November 1987 for $2.7 million. 

An exceptional ruby and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Sold for CHF 7,198,500 on 15 May 2019 at Christie’s in Geneva

An exceptional ruby and diamond ring, Harry Winston. Sold for CHF 7,198,500 on 15 May 2019 at Christie’s in Geneva

As well as show-stopping diamonds, the tour made Harry Winston’s name synonymous with coloured gemstones of exceptional quality. One such is the 22.86-carat Burmese ruby featured in the above diamond and ruby ring, which sold at Christie’s in Geneva in 2019 for CHF 7,198,500 — more than double its high estimate. 

Cluster design

The concept of the ‘cluster’ or ‘clustering’, now regarded as Harry Winston’s signature technique, was formulated in the 1940s. Comprising pear-shaped and marquise-cut diamonds set with minimal metal and at varying angles, the idea revolutionised jewellery design to create clusters of remarkable brilliance.

A diamond brooch, Harry Winston. Round brilliant-cut diamond, seven marquise and pear brilliant-cut diamonds, platinum, maker’s mark, 5.4 cm, black Harry Winston case. Estimate HK$1,300,000-1,800,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A diamond brooch, Harry Winston. Round brilliant-cut diamond, seven marquise and pear brilliant-cut diamonds, platinum, maker’s mark, 5.4 cm, black Harry Winston case. Estimate: HK$1,300,000-1,800,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A diamond brooch, Harry Winston. Seventeen pear-shaped diamonds, marquise and circular-cut diamonds, platinum, 4.7 cm, maker’s mark. Estimate HK$800,000-1,200,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

A diamond brooch, Harry Winston. Seventeen pear-shaped diamonds, marquise and circular-cut diamonds, platinum, 4.7 cm, maker’s mark. Estimate: HK$800,000-1,200,000. Offered in Hong Kong Magnificent Jewels on 26 November 2019 at Christie’s in Hong Kong

One of the most iconic and sought-after Harry Winston ‘cluster’ designs is the ‘Wreath’ necklace, inspired by a holly wreath the jeweller had hung on his front door. He was immediately inspired to recreate the design using different cuts of diamonds.

In a wreath necklace, the stones are held in place by very fine prong settings, which allow the diamonds to appear to float on top of the wearer.

A diamond cluster necklace, by Harry Winston. Sold for $1,027,500 on 7 December 2016 at Christie’s in New York

A diamond cluster necklace, by Harry Winston. Sold for $1,027,500 on 7 December 2016 at Christie’s in New York

Among the celebrities known to have once owned a ‘Wreath’ necklace is socialite Betsy Bloomingdale. Her necklace, made in 1961, was the pièce de résistance of her collection.

The ‘cluster’ remains a trademark of the firm and a sign of the finest quality of setting, which only a true Harry Winston jewel can possess.


An enduring legacy

Nayla Hayek, the present CEO of Harry Winston, has continued Winston’s legacy, adding one-of-a-kind diamonds to the Winston collection.

The Pink Legacy. Sold for CHF 50,375,000 on 13 November 2018 at Christie’s in Geneva

The Pink Legacy. Sold for CHF 50,375,000 on 13 November 2018 at Christie’s in Geneva

Brilliant examples include the Winston Blue, an exceptional 13.22-carat flawless vivid blue diamond; the Winston Pink Legacy, an extraordinary 18.96-carat fancy vivid pink diamond, which was once in the collection of the Oppenheimer family; and the Winston Legacy, a formidable 101.73 carat D flawless pear-shaped diamond.