Silent Scintillation

October 1998

From the Vault

Silent Scintillation

Harry Winston set the standard for luxury by always thinking big

Extravagant jewels were the ultimate expression of luxury in the early 20th century. They symbolized a prosperous and easy lifestyle. A woman wearing a profusion of fine gems set in platinum and gold was identified immediately as a member of high society.

This perception changed dramatically with the outbreak of World War II. Luxury disappeared in the wake of wartime privations. Platinum was conscripted for the war effort; fine gems were difficult if not impossible to obtain. Jewelry made during the 1940s was typically made of lightweight gold sculpted for a large look. If gems were used, they were small, sometimes synthetic or large, less-expensive natural ones such as citrine or moonstone.

When the war ended, optimism boomed along with the economy. The 1950s ushered in a general feeling of prosperity and with it came a return of opulence and luxury. Gold jewelry remained in fashion for daywear, but fine gems and platinum made a comeback for evening. In this climate of growth and expansion, jewelry made by Harry Winston most closely captured the spirit of the time.

Thinking Big
Winston established his reputation as an exceptional gem dealer by his phenomenal ability to judge gem quality and his resolve to "always think big." Able to see what others couldn't in the estate jewels being liquidated in the '30s and '40s, he recut and reset these gems in contemporary styles with a broader appeal for the 1950s client.

The ornate styles of previous decades didn't suit Winston's aesthetic; he wanted to make jewelry where the gems rather than the metal were the focus. Inspiration came in the form of a holly wreath at Christmas – the leaves defined the shape of the wreath while the structure of branches was hidden.

Why couldn't gems be set the same way? Winston devised flexible wire settings of platinum and gold as the underlying structure for his subtle arrangements of gems. The independent prong settings were linked underneath so only the prong tips showed, allowing the gems to make the statement.

Highest Quality Gems
Many Winston designs feature diamonds in herringbone patterns or subtle suggestions of leaves and berries in necklaces and bracelets. His signature earrings are clusters of fancy-shaped diamonds that resemble icicles or flames. The diamonds are always beautifully cut stones of high color and clarity. When color is integrated, the gems are always of exceptional quality. As a fine painting is given an important frame, Winston set colored gems in a border of diamonds, underscoring their significance.

Soon after they were introduced in the 1950s, Harry Winston's inventive designs were widely imitated, demonstrating the magnitude of their impact. His work has proved itself timeless; jewelry designed in the 1950s is just as wearable today as it was then. In essence, jewels by Harry Winston are the ultimate definition of luxury; their silent scintillation says it all.

A simple row of graduated pear-shaped diamonds makes an elegant necklace from which to suspend a magnificent pear-shaped diamond pendant. Cluster earrings and ring also feature pear-shaped diamonds. Photo and jewelry courtesy of Harry Winston.

– by Elise B. Misiorowski




Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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