American jeweller Harry 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’.
Born in New York in 1896, he was exposed to the workings of his father’s jewellery shop from a young age. He bought his first emerald in 1908 at the age of 12. Winston opened The Premier Diamond Company in 1920 before establishing Harry Winston Inc in 1932.
The ‘cluster’ or ‘clustering’, now regarded as Harry Winston’s signature technique, was conceived in the 1940s. Sought-after ‘cluster’ designs include the Harry Winston ‘Wreath’ necklace, inspired by a holly wreath the jeweller had hung on his front door.
From the 1950s through to the 1970s, Harry Winston boutiques were a destination of choice for royalty, Hollywood stars and business moguls alike. Betsy Bloomingdale, Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were all fans. He was also referenced in the song ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,’ most famously performed by Marilyn Monroe.
After Winston’s death in 1978, his son Ronald assumed control of the company. The first collection of Harry Winston watches was launched in 1989. In 2013, the Swatch Group acquired the retail arm of Harry Winston, with Nayla Hayek assuming the role of CEO.
Hayek has continued Winston’s legacy, adding one-of-a-kind diamonds to the Winston collection. This includes the Pink Legacy diamond, a rectangular-cut Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, weighing approximately 18.96 carats. The stone set a price-per-carat world record for any pink diamond when it sold in 2018 at Christie’s in Geneva for CHF 50,375,000. Also noteworthy is the Winston Blue, a Fancy Vivid Blue pear-shaped diamond, weighing approximately 13.22 carats. It was acquired for CHF 21,445,000 in 2014 at Christie’s in Geneva.
Jewellery collectors cherish Harry Winston jewellery for its innovative design and exceptional quality. Harry Winston emerald rings and Harry Winston diamond rings are particularly sought-after, especially Harry Winston Asscher cut rings. Harry Winston bracelets and Harry Winston necklaces set with diamonds and coloured gems are also popular and widely worn by A-listers on the red carpet. Harry Winston engagement rings are prized for their exceptional stones, selected from only the top colour and clarity grades.
When it comes to Harry Winston watches, diamond examples command the highest prices at auction. In 2016, Christie’s sold a diamond Harry Winston watch for HKD 4,620,000, the highest Harry Winston watch price achieved at Christie’s.
Notable Winston diamonds include the Jonker, a 726-carat diamond that he purchased in 1935. He subsequently cut it into 13 important stones, numbered I to XIII. Christie’s sold The Jonker V for £3,015,000 in 2019. Another is the Briolette of India, a 90-carat-colourless diamond that he purchased in 1946. The necklace was sold at Christie’s Geneva in May 2023.
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. He toured the gem around the United States as part of his Court of Jewels exhibition, before donating it in 1958 to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.