The King of Diamonds Featured

Harry Winston's glorious ascent as 'Jeweller to the Stars'


London Editor

17 September 2013

It was from humble beginnings that Harry Winston's star began to shine. Born in New York City, the 'King of Diamonds' began his career in his father's small LA jewellery store – his eye for precious stones was set when, aged just twelve, he spotted a tray of junk jewellery reading 'take your pick - 25 cents' and selected a ring with a green stone. Two days later he sold the piece for $800 – the green stone was, in fact, a 2-carat emerald.

Fast forward 12 years and the ebullient jeweller, re-entrenched in his native New York City, founded the 'Premier Diamond Company,' its purpose to acquire Edwardian and Victorian estate jewellery and remodel it for the modern market. In particular, he commandeered the estates of Arabella 'Belle' Huntington and, many years later, the McLean jewels – which counted the infamous 'Hope Diamond' among its treasures.

It was the 1935 acquisition of the 726-carat Jonker diamond that truly capitulated Harry Winston to the title of 'King of Diamonds.' Winston was a man who thought big – whether it was dressing the word's leading ladies or acquiring the globe's largest stones. By 1949 he had amassed such a collection of world famous gems that he was able to showcase them all in the now-legendary travelling 'Court of Jewels' exhibition. Almost twenty years later he had the 601-carat Lesotho cleaved into 18 stones on national television, with Aristotle Onassis gifting one of the largest, the Lesotho III, to Jacqueline Kennedy for their engagement.

His insurance company forbade his face from being photographed as his success grew (this was, after all, the man who had managed to build a jewellery collection second only in size to Queen Elizabeth II's Crown Jewels). Instead, a stream of starlets and sirens became synonymous with the brand. Winston's media savoir faire was such that he was the first jeweller to lend his showstopping creations to movie stars – Jennifer Jones collected her Academy Award for Best Actress in 1944 draped in his signature diamonds, and since then everyone, from Katharine Hepburn to Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe to Madonna, has worn his creations for big screen moments and public appearances – indeed an industry has been built on the construct he began. It's as if the immortal phrase, "Talk to me, Harry Winston! Tell me all about it!" chimes throughout Hollywood and high society.

With 24 boutiques worldwide, today the name Harry Winston continues to be synonymous with glamour, stardom and breathtaking stones. From the recent Water collection, set in ultra-fine platinum with fancy-shaped, pave, brilliant and pear-cut diamonds evoking rivers, streams and waterfalls to the Ultimate Adornment collection, created entirely in diamond and platinum and revisiting the legendary Harry Winston design archives, perhaps one day soon Winston's vision of dressing a woman purely in diamonds will be fulfilled.