Harry Winston (March 1, 1896 – December 28, 1978) was an American jeweller. He donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 after owning it for a decade, and traded the Portuguese Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1963.
Born in 1896, Harry Winston became one of the most well-known American jewelers. Known as a jeweler to the rich and famous, he was also an important donor of famous gems to museums. The company he founded continues to create sought after pieces.
Winston's career as a gem trader reputedly began in 1908 when as a twelve year old boy Harry noticed a plain ring with a green stone in a pawnshop window. The pawnbroker believed the stone to be about a quarter of a carat and so sold it for 25 cents. Harry took the ring to his father, Jacob, a small local jeweler, who was amazed to see an emerald weighing two carats. Two days later, Harry sold the stone for 800 dollars, and thus began a legendary jewelry empire.
Winston's jewelry empire began with his acquisition of Arabella Huntington's famous jewelry collection. The wife of railroad magnate Henry Huntington, Arabella amassed one of the world's most prestigious collections of jewelry, largely from Parisian jewelers such as Cartier.
When Winston purchased the collection after her death, the designs of the collection were quite old fashioned. Winston redesigned the jewelry into more contemporary styles and showcased his unique skill at jewelry crafting. According to the Huntington museum, "He frequently boasted that Arabella's famous necklace of pearls now adorned the necks of at least two dozen women around the world."
Harry Winston dared to make history in 1949 by acquiring the most famous diamond in the world. The Hope Diamond, a masterpiece much improved, was among Harry Winston’s greatest treasures. In 1958, we donated it to the Smithsonian Institution. It is Harry Winston’s gift to the world.
Winston was among the most famous jewelers in the world, well-known to the general public. In the 1953 musical film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" includes the spoken interjection "Talk to me, Harry Winston, tell me all about it!" The Lauren Weisberger comic novel Chasing Harry Winston was published in May 2008.
Today, the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation operates seven salons in the U.S., in New York, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Dallas, Honolulu, Bal Harbour, and Chicago, and twelve salons in other countries.
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