Harry Winston's Life and History: A Look Back at the Legacy of "The King of Diamonds"

Plus, details on The Winston Pink Legacy Diamond honoring his 125th birthday.

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Courtesy of Harry Winston Inc.

What do Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Jennifer Lopez have in common? Though not a question regularly asked, both public figures once donned exquisite engagement rings from the famed jeweler, Harry Winston. 

Labeled "The King of Diamonds" and "Jeweler to the Stars," Winston's jewels and designs have been seen countless times on red carpets, in movies, and immortalized in museums. March 1, 2021, marks Mr. Harry Winston's 125th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with a look back at his life and legacy.

Harry Winston
Courtesy of Harry Winston Inc.

The Beginnings

Born in New York City in 1896, Winston began his career by working at his father's small jewelry shop. "Ever since I was quite young, jewels have fascinated me. I think I must have been born with some knowledge of them," he once said. As his taste for fine jewelry developed, his first "big break" came at the age of 12 when he purchased a two-carat emerald stone (unbeknownst to others) at a pawn shop for 25 cents–a stone valued and later sold at $800.

Ever since I was quite young, jewels have fascinated me. I think I must have been born with some knowledge of them.

His impeccable eye was quickly recognized, and at 15 years old the jeweler moved to Los Angeles to help run his family business. Winston eventually broke out on his own, and as they say, the rest is history. His first business, Premier Diamond Company, grew tremendously and helped fund Harry Winston Inc., the company we all know and love today.

A Star is Born

"The love of showing off diamonds is human nature," Winston once said. In 1944, the jeweler made his Hollywood debut as the first jeweler to lend diamonds to an actress for the Academy Awards, revolutionizing red carpet glamour. His muse was Jennifer Jones who won the Best Actress Oscar that evening. Following Jones's debut, Winston soon became a Hollywood favorite and cultural phenomenon. He dressed celebrities like Claudette Colbert and Shirley Temple, and became the go-to jeweler for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1948. He was also referenced in the song "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," most famously performed by Marilyn Monroe, which includes the line, “Talk to me Harry Winston! Tell me all about it!"

The love of showing off diamonds is human nature.

While these occurrences helped proclaim the name of Harry Winston, his world-renowned Taylor-Burton diamond helped solidify his place in history. This was a flawless 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond, handcrafted by the jeweler, which Richard Burton purchased for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.

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From his first red carpet moment in 1944, Harry Winston Inc. has become the go-to choice for celebrities like Kerry Washington, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, Charlize Theron, Madonna, Rosario Dawson, Regina King, Coco Rocha, Amal ClooneyNatalie Portman, Regina King, and many more. We, however, can't wrap up our list without making note of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis's 40.42-carat marquise cut diamond ring–one of the most expensive engagement rings to date. 

Legacy Diamonds

Harry Winston
Courtesy of Harry Winston Inc.

During his reign, Mr. Winston was known to have acquired some of the most renowned jewels, particularly the Jonker, Vargas, and Hope diamonds. In the 1930s, Harry Winston acquired the 726-carat Jonker, a rough stone that was split into 12 beautiful cut diamonds, and the Vargas, a 26.60-carat rough stone that resulted in 29 individual diamonds.

But in 1949, Winston's purchase of the Hope diamond wowed jewelers and gemologists across the world. This was a 45.52-carat rare blue diamond, once owned by Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, and Lord Henry Hope. The jewel was later donated to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., where it remains on permanent display.

The Winston Pink Legacy Diamond

In continuing his legacy, the House of Winston is now presenting an incredible 18.96-carat Fancy Vivid Pink diamond, which has been described as “virtually unheard of." As stated in a press release, "Named the Winston Pink Legacy, this extraordinary diamond is one of the most sensational in the world and underscores the Winston tradition of excellence."

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Courtesy of Harry Winston Inc.

What makes this magnificent piece of jewelry rare? To start, there are only one in 10,000 diamonds that have natural color, which the Pink Legacy possesses–and only one in 1,000,000 diamonds are able to qualify as "Fancy Vivid". Moreover, it's a chemically pure pink-hued diamond, a stone that makes up less than two percent of all diamond gems in the world.

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Courtesy of Harry Winston Inc.

The Winston Pink Legacy was bought in November 2018 for approximately $56 million USD. "To find a diamond of this size with this color is pretty much unreal," stated in a press release by Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewelry at Christie’s. "You may see this color in a pink diamond of less than one carat. But this is almost 19 carats and it’s as pink as can be. It’s unbelievable."

While Harry Winston saw and owned some of the most precious gems during his lifetime, we think it's safe to say that he would've been thrilled to welcome this rare stone into his collection and legacy.

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