From acquiring the Arcot Diamonds to important pieces from the collections of Marie Antoinette and Princess Eugenie, the Harry Winston brand is steeped in aristocratic history. The Royal Adornments high jewellery collection celebrates the brand’s regal heritage, with each piece taking inspiration from a significant jewel of royal provenance that has passed through the hands of Harry Winston. Full of colour, this collection celebrates the kings and queens of all gemstones - emeralds, sapphires and rubies. These three gems are part of the Cardinal gemstone family, a set of gems historically considered valuable above all others. Let’s take a closer look at the most impressive of these gems featured in the Royal Adornments collection and learn about the historic jewels that inspired their final designs.
The Countess Necklace
The velvety blue sapphire has been a constant in royal jewellery throughout the ages. The largest sapphire present in the Royal Adornments collection honours this long tradition. The Countess necklace includes a 30.27-carat octagonal step-cut sapphire at the heart of its design. This high jewellery piece is inspired by Catherine the Great’s favourite jewel, which featured a deep blue 337.10-carat sapphire. After her death in 1796, this extraordinary stone was named the ‘Catherine the Great Sapphire’ and became part of the Russian Crown jewels for over a century. Eventually, the last Russian Emperor Czar Nicholas II, sold it to finance a hospital train for the Russian Army during World War I. The stone made its way to the United States, where it was purchased by Mr. Winston. The diamond dealer and designer decided to set the mammoth sapphire into an elegant drop pendant necklace featuring round brilliant and marquise-cut diamonds. The Royal Adornments Countess necklace pays homage to the Catherine the Great Sapphire, with the breath-taking central stone set alongside eleven octagonal step-cut sapphires totalling 94.41 carats, as well as 53.05 carats of diamonds in varying shapes and sizes.
The Viscountess Necklace
The second largest sapphire in this collection also comes in the form of a necklace. This 25.02-carat octagonal-cut sapphire is the focal point of the Viscountess necklace, a piece inspired by the many sapphire-centric jewels that Harry Winston made for royal families over the years. What is most impressive about this piece is its design, as the sapphire appears to be floating in mid-air between elegant lines of pear-shaped sapphires that graduate from light to dark. These lighter-coloured gems are outlined by 61.34 carats of brilliant round diamonds, graduating in size. This necklace is accompanied by earrings, each featuring octagonal step-cut sapphires weighing 11.47 and 11.71 carats, respectively.
The Court Emerald Earrings
The delicate emerald's enchanting and mysteriously vivid green colour is one of the most sought-after hues in high jewellery. The emeralds with the largest carat weights in the Royal Adornments collection can be found in the Court Emerald earrings. These yellow gold and platinum pieces are set with two nearly identical emerald-cut stones weighing 18.50 and 17.81 carats, respectively. The historical inspiration behind these one-of-a-kind creations comes from a lucky encounter Mr Winston had while on one of his global travels searching for the world’s finest diamonds and gemstones. In 1956, during a trip to India, he heard word of an extraordinary emerald necklace being sold that used to belong to the Maharajah of Nawanagar. In Mr. Winston’s words: “The moment I saw the necklace, I knew I had to own it. The emeralds were the finest I had ever seen, extraordinary for their enormous size, colour, and deep fire. Even though I have owned many historic gems, I knew that this unique emerald necklace would be the top ornament of my collection”. The Court high jewellery earrings also feature 16 emerald cut, pear-shaped, marquise and round brilliant diamonds set in yellow gold and platinum.
The Baroness Suite
The Baroness Suite, comprised of a pair of earrings and an ornate necklace crafted in platinum, emeralds and diamonds, is also inspired by a historic Maharaja necklace. Although the early origins of the Maharaja of Indore Necklace remain a mystery, we do know that this impressive piece was purchased by Harry Winston from the Maharaja’s son in 1948. After purchasing it, Mr. Winston toured the necklace across the United States as part of his famous Court of Jewels exhibition. This exhibit gathered a large celebrity following, with Katharine Hepburn posing for promotional photos wearing the magnificent creation. Comprised of strands of antique-cut diamonds and vivid emeralds, the highlight of the necklace is a central barrel emerald weighing approximately 45 carats. The Baroness suite honours the original shape of the necklace, featuring layers of pear-shaped, marquise and round brilliant-cut diamonds as well as square and emerald-cut emeralds.
The Heiress Necklace
Although rubies are less used in the Royal Adornments collection when compared to sapphires and emeralds, they hold immense historical significance for the Harry Winston brand. The Heiress necklace is inspired by perhaps Harry Winston’s most famous coloured gemstone purchase - the Baldwin Ruby, a pear-shaped rare pigeon’s blood stone weighing 25 carats that Harry Winston acquired through the purchase of mining tycoon Lucky Baldwin’s estate in 1930. Out of all the varying precious gems in the collection, which totalled over 1,000 carats, Winston was most taken by this ruby. He is quoted in a US newspaper in December 1930 saying: “This gem undoubtedly came from a Burmese king who was pressed for cash. Such a stone enters the market about once in a century”. The Heiress necklace honours this beautiful once-in-a-lifetime gem. At the heart of the three-strand necklace sits a 5.26-carat pear-shaped ruby, flanked by a series of seventy-five pear-shaped, cushion-cut and oval-cut rubies totalling 68.68 carats. The fiery red hues of the stones are accentuated by 65.79 carats of round brilliant-cut diamonds.
Imposing Gems of the Present
The Dame Necklace & Earrings
The Royal Adornments collection also includes beautiful creations that highlight more atypical gems. The Dame necklace and earrings are such pieces created to honour the rarity of the Conch pearl. This all-natural, non-nacreous pearl produced by the Queen Conch mollusc is found in the Caribbean. It is also among the rarest gems known to man, with only one found in every ten thousand to twenty thousand shells. This high jewellery set is inspired by a conch pearl high jewellery necklace created by Harry Winston for American royalty Dame Elizabeth Taylor. The original design featured 45 carats of the largest gem-quality pink conch pearl on record at the time.
The Idol Necklace
Another less classical gemstone highlighted in this collection is the Paraiba tourmaline. This electric blue gem is the primary focus of the Idol necklace, where a 12.08-carat cushion-cut Paraiba sits at the heart of the design, surrounded by diamonds and sapphires. The inspiration behind this necklace comes from the mysterious Idol’s Eye diamond, a surprisingly shaped 70.20-carat flawless oval-cut diamond that was discovered in India in the 17th century. What is unusual about this gemstone besides its shape is that it went missing for nearly 300 years. It disappeared from the jewellery and gem scene until 1909, when it was found in the possession of a Sultan. Mr. Winston came across the gem and purchased it in 1946.
As you can see, the House of Harry Winston once possessed a collection of diamonds and coloured gemstones that could only be rivalled by a royal household. He travelled the world in search of these incredible gems, hoping to bring an air of royalty to his brand. It’s safe to say he was very successful in doing so. In his own words. “When dealing with royalty, you must remember you’re dealing with people who are brought up with honour.”