Signature Harry Winston
written by Tina Tyler
Jeweler Harry Winston spent a lifetime devoted to creating fine jewelry. Today, his company carries on his artistic legacy.
The art of Harry Winston’s designs is part creative innovation and part legend.The son of a New York jeweler, Winston opened his first salon in 1932, offering watches, diamonds, and other jeweled designs. Legend has it that early in his career, Winston was enchanted with the look of a Christmas holly wreath on his door—or, more specifically, how each leaf (not wires) shaped the wreath into a three-dimensional design. What followed revolutionized the jewelry industry. With nature as his muse, Winston continued to use jewels to shape his creations, balancing light, flexible settings, and minimal use of met- als. His organic-looking pieces enhanced the fiery bril- liance of the gems used and allowed for greater versatility in jewelry design.
For Winston, creating exquisite pieces of art began with the stone itself. And, true to his style, no mere gem would do. In 1949, he acquired the rare, 45.52-carat Hope Diamond and later came into possession of the 94.8-carat Star of the East diamond, the 14.37-carat Star of the South diamond, a 9-carat green diamond, and a 31- carat treasure now called the McLean Diamond. But perhaps his most famous gem came from a rough stone weighing 240.8 carats found in the Premier Mine, South Africa in 1966. Legend has it that when this stone arrived in New York, Winston and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr., studied the gem for six months.They marked and erased, drew and debated the cutting of such a stone was a television event. In the end, a 78-carat, pear shaped diamond was born. Harry Winston had secured his title as the “King of Diamonds”!
Today, above its flagship Fifth Avenue salon, Harry Winston’s company continues the traditions of its innovative founder. “At Harry Winston, we believe the stones are the most important part of a piece of jewelry to showcase; therefore, we use a minimal amount of metal, so that the diamonds appear as if they are floating on the skin,” says Susy Korb, the company’s executive vice president of marketing and design. “This approach allows for the maximum amount of light to reflect through the diamonds, giving them unsurpassed brilliance.”
As Korb details, the process behind creating a signature Harry Winston piece is extremely complex. For starters, every Harry Winston piece is handmade. “Each stone is individually selected and cut to unleash the fire of the stone and then set into a wax layout,” says the executive.The Winston team includes more than twenty jewelers who create every piece of platinum wire and basket from scratch, as well as three jewelry setters who set every stone individually so that they match the basket appropriately.
“Harry Winston is the pinnacle of jewelry design because we not only use the finest stones, but we also design our jewelry in a way that truly captures all nature has to offer,” Korb explains. “Whether it be a pair of earrings from our Diamonds de Neige collection, inspired by snowflakes, or one of our classic wreath and vine necklaces, all of Winston’s pieces marry together nature’s beauty: diamonds, design, and ultimately, the woman.”
As the legend of Harry Winston lives on, artisans and setters continue to build upon the innovation and idea that began with a simple wreath. Often copied but never duplicated, the King of Diamonds’ unique design signature is truly what legends are made of!
Pictured: Paraiba Tourmaline and Diamond Ring, featuring a 4.39 carat cabochon Paraiba tourmaline surrounded by six additional tourmalines and 6.11 carats of diamonds set in platinum. Image courtesy Harry Winston.