Overtime, the Harry Winston engagement ring has become legendary … and the epitomy of beauty. Labelled the King of Diamonds, Harry Winston has long been praised as one of the most knowledgeable and passionate collectors of the finest gems in the world. His keen eye for rare and extraordinary gems led to his passion becoming his sole purpose in life and the founding of the House of Harry Winston in 1932. Establishing his eponymous brand earned him a reputation of unmatched connoisseur of the most exceptional stones that royals, celebrities and rich socialites lusted after.
Harry Winston never studied stones… yet, he knew. His 6th sense was the basis of his career… some would say he was God given! In 1908, he was only 12 and spotted a green stone in a vitrine of an old antique store and bought it for $25. After cleaning and polishing the stone, it turned out it was a 2-carat emerald he sold later on for $800. Throughout his career, although he had a devoted passion for diamonds, emeralds and Burmese sapphires also became his area of expertise. Harry Winston loved stones so much that he used to keep some in his pockets so he could caress them all day – and most of them were priceless!
A Harry Winston stone
“Buy the stone never the mounts,” claimed Harry Winston. The stone itself is the real investment. The setting is not important as it changes overtime in style due to the ephemerality of fashion! Paradoxically, the Holy Grail is a Harry Winston engagement ring! Over the years it has acquired an iconic status and is, most definitely, guaranteed to be the first step down a road of a happily-ever-after life.
Many of the world’s most beautiful ladies confided in his flawless taste and keen eye for outstanding gems – celebrities and nobility alike shared his obsession with historic and rare jewels as there was no other feeling more satisfactory than adorning themselves with a pair of diamond earrings that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette or the legendary Evalyn Walsh McLean. The 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards that happened last January 10th proved once more that the Winston Cluster Diamond pieces are timeless pieces worn by the younger (Katy Perry) or the eldest (Helen Mirren). Elegance never go out of style…
What made Harry Winston Famous
Winston always adored the finesse and ethereal allure of the feminine beauty, which he believed, was perfectly complemented by the right piece of jewelry and made it his personal mission to bring together matter and spirit to cater to the expensive tastes of rich socialites. In his creative journey Harry Winston revolutionised the jewelry concept of the diamond ring and redefined the engagement ring. He offered a taste of something very different to the traditional wedding rings with timeless elegance and sculpted beauty encapsulating the essence of the most important moment of a couple’s journey through life together.
Winston himself was the pioneer in setting large stones (mostly pear and square cuts) within solitaire rings… breaking the tradition of setting large gems in brooches, tiaras or necklaces only. A Harry Winston ring was often compared to a yacht or a Rolls Royce but not because of its financial value. It demonstrated a certain level of social class!
Nowadays – fortunately or not, a girl, a young lady or a woman spotted with a Harry Winston ring on her finger cannot as easily be found. Yes, fashion codes have evolved, and it has become socially acceptable to wear a 10-carat emerald cut diamond set on a platinum band with a pair of jeans and a plain white tee-shirt… Therefore a blind guess often comes to mind when a big rock is spotted on a finger.
Legendary HW stones worn by legends
Decades before he made his high-profile acquisition of the Hope and Star of the East Diamonds, Winston continued to purchase spectacular rough diamonds, which would ultimately end in the collection of famous women and European royalty. Even Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor received a 241-carat piece of rough beauty from her husband late-Richard Burton who had the rough stone cut into a 69.42ct flawless pear-shaped diamond. Known for her love of jewels, it was only fitting that Liz Taylor would often confide in Harry’s impeccable taste and knowledge of gems.
The legendary beauty was not the only famous woman to have the pleasure of adorning herself with the rare stones and precious gems he had a passion for. In 1969, Winston made the bold move of splitting a 601-carat rough diamond discovered in the South African kingdom of Lesotho into 18 diamonds and publically broadcasted the info. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the 40.42-carat marquise-cut Lesotho III, which was set into Jackie Kennedy’s engagement ring following the news of her marriage-to-come to Greek magnate Aristotle Onassis.
There is a reason for his title, “Jeweller to the stars” and Marilyn’s famous words in one of Hollywood’s undying classics ‘Talk to me Harry Winston! Tell me all about it!’ are a perfect epitome of the transformative power his vision and perseverance had on the way diamonds revolutionized modern red-carpet glamour and the market for engagement rings. The first jeweller to loan diamonds to an actress for the Academy Awards, his legacy continues to live in the 19 salons worldwide as well as countless exquisite pieces that capture and relay the extraordinary wonders of the world’s most precious elements through unparalleled technique and craftsmanship.
In opposition to many jewellers such as Cartier, Verdura or Schlumberger, Harry Winston was not able to design and draw sketches himself of the jewelry pieces he had in mind. This is one of the reasons why Ambaji Shinde became his best ally. The Indian designer collaborated with the American jeweller for 36 years. It was more than 3 decades of creativity, style invention and extraordinary gem-settings. Shinde was a genius. A creative genius who broke through a 5000-years tradition of jewelry craftsmanship combining old world-techniques with modern twists. Shinde was a yogi who woke up every single day at 5 a.m. to practice his yoga prior to sitting down and sketching jewelry. His life was about passion and discipline in the most singular way that he was unaffected by his accomplishments. A humble man whose designs was not a means to the ends of fame and fortune but more of a spiritual calling.
Born in 1917 in Goa, India, Ambadi Shinde showed an early devotion to flowers, rocks and ornaments. His artistic aptitude was first demonstrated with a caricatured portrait of a girl. He got a slap in the face from the father who considered his art as inappropriate. Yet, 2 days later, he received from the same man 2 rupees and some apologies for the incident… admitting he had quite some talent. Shinde eventually convinced his parents to attend a school of arts in Bombay and later graduated with a degree in textile design. Despite what he knew best, his first job required him to design jewelry although he had never seen a diamond before.
Not only Shinde became really good at imagining jewelry lines but he actually became the best at it. After 25 years spent in India, his local career came to an end. Harry Winston had discovered Shinde through some deals he had with a local jewelry store manager named Nanubai. He saw the potential of Shinde and asked Nanubai if he could steal two of his employees… and he did. The other was his personal chef! It is unarguable to say that Ambaji Shinde defined the HW style, imagining the Cluster and wreath motifs which later became the signature of the house. Shinde’s designs were often imitated but never duplicated !
Harry Winston’s expertise in diamonds became the lifeline of the House of Winston’s iconic silhouette, translating into the iconic status of HW engagement rings and daytime jewels. A 1-carat diamond engagement ring from their collections or a 2-carat Harry Winston ring is meant to last – similar to one’s nuptial bliss. The House’s diamond-driven style transforms its jewelry into fine art with a lasting aesthetic that inspires and transcends time and fleeting trends. Continuing the tradition of creativity, rarity, and quality without compromise – supreme artistic symmetry is displayed throughout his innovative design philosophy and the exceptional craftsmanship of Harry Winston rings. Long after the purchase of an engagement ring was commercialized and became a process defined by peer pressure, the luxurious brand continues to emphasize quality, not quantity and make only about 1,500 rings each year for the world market.
Harry Winston’s exceptional diamond-trading skills did not go unnoticed by European royalty. Between 1946 and 1966, the Duchess of Windsor bought 15 separate jewels alone, including the opulent 31.26ct cushion-cut McLean diamond. His popularity amongst the rich and powerful stemmed from the fact that they shared a mutual appreciation for the finer things in life as well as an obsession with divine harmony and perfection in its purest form. In business as well as his personal life Winston always went beyond what others deemed a reasonable limit to redefine the standards of beauty, quality, loyalty and perseverance. His diamonds were often praised for “going beyond the four Cs” and as he himself eloquently put it: “A good diamond, however small, is a possession to be prized for generations.”
Why are women so obsessed about HW?
Before even organizing her dream wedding, a women dreams about her ring. You know that little thing she will carry on her finger, show-off to her girlfriend, hide when she does not wear it, cherish as if it was a baby, look at as if it was a Picasso or a Bugatti -it’s only a matter of perspective in the end. The point is, that a HW wedding ring is often the most significant purchase a young couple (the future husband) will make. Only a few people realize just how important its symbolic and emotional connection is to the love they’re promising ‘to have and to hold’. The singular elegance and harmonious aesthetic of Harry Winston rings are as ever-lasting as is the historic relevance of the gemstones that adorn the pieces.
The One and Classic Winston are two famous designs- whose name reference stand for themselves in the HW variety of styles. If the first one is a cushion-cut diamond micropavé ring, the other is an emerald-cut with tapered baguette side stones. Two emblematic Harry Winston designs used for engagement rings that can also be mounted with other precious stones such as rubies, sapphires or emeralds, not to mention colored diamonds (yellow, pink or blue).
Today, Winston’s Legacy is alive and flourishing with the empire he built continuing to thrive with the acquisition of an array of magnificent, record-breaking flawless diamonds in the spirit of the visionary’s desire to bring together heritage, traditions, and cultural significance. Naturally, Harry Winston engagement ring prices can be as head-turning as the fabulous pieces themselves, but given the painstaking technique, expertise and delicate assembly that go into the making of each creation – it’s no surprise.
Hand-crafted to perfection, a diamond that has been worked on at the famous jewelry House needs to go far beyond the four C’s to be deemed ‘Harry Winston cut’ material. No other jeweller has ever come close to Winston’s passion and exceptional taste in diamonds, which made him the proud owner of the world’s second largest collection of historic jewels as well as some of the most spectacular gemstones like the legendary Hope Diamond, the Spanish Inquisition necklace and the Portuguese Diamond.