The House of Harry Winston is one of the world’s most famous, luxurious and prestigious jewellers.
Named after it’s founder, who was born in 1896, and perhaps most famous for being the last private owner of the Hope Diamond, Winston was also the first person to lend fabulous jewellery to actresses for the Academy Awards, in 1944.
Although the company was not established until 1932, though he already had many years of experience in jewellery, having helped in his father’s shop since he was a young man. Legend has it that the young Winston had a knack for spotting valuable stones, when at the age of twelve he bought an emerald ring from a junk shop for twenty five cents, and resold it two days later for eight hundred dollars.
He established Harry Winston in 1932, and quickly established a reputation for having great flair and imaginative design. He was a successful dealer, and in 1949 he bought the world’s most famous diamond for one million dollars, the Hope Diamond. The Hope diamond was originally a 112 carat diamond, stolen from a Hindu statue, and brought to Europe by a man called Tavernier. Tavernier was later eaten by a pack of wild dogs. It was next owned by Louis XIV, who had it cut down to 80 carats. Louis was executed during the French Revolution. These deaths helped establish the legend that the Hope diamond was cursed.
It disappeared after the death of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, but a 44 carat deep blue diamond surfaced some 30 years later. It is all but certain that this is the same stone. It was purchased by a banker called Henry Thomas Hope, who gave it to his wife. His wife later ran off with another man, and Hope sold it to fend off bankruptcy, reinforcing the legend of the curse.
It was next owned by Evelyn McLean, who died, wearing the Hope diamond, in 1947. Winston purchased the diamond from her estate. Winston set up a touring exhibit of fine diamonds, with the Hope as the star attraction.
In 1958 he donated the Hope to the Smithsonian Museum, sending it by ordinary registered post, in a plain package. Over a number of years, he donated more gems to the Smithsonian; these would one day be assembled together in the Winston Gallery in the Smithsonian.
Winston Jewellery is famous for being exquisitely designed, flattering and feminine but also glamorous and dazzling. The diamonds used in his pieces were always top quality, and the quality of workmanship second to none. To own a piece of diamond history is a rare and wonderful thing, and Winston pieces are sought after and loved the world over, as much today as in the past.