While the name Harry Winston is practically synonymous with Hollywood red carpet events today, did you know that the company was the first jeweler to lend diamonds to an actress to wear to the Academy Awards? That was back in 1944, and the borrower was Jennifer Jones, who won the Best Actress award for The Song of Bernadette. My interest in Harry Winston was peaked when I learned that they designed a key piece of jewelry worn in my all-time favorite movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious.
This 1946 thriller stars Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi collaborator, who is, herself, a patriotic American. Following her father’s trial, she is recruited by federal agent T. R. Devlin (played by Cary Grant) to help him infiltrate a Nazi organization in Brazil. As instructed, Alicia becomes romantically involved with Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains), to spy on him and his associates. On the evening she is to dine at the Sebastian home with Alex, his mother, and his comrades, Alicia (wearing an Edith Head-designed evening dress) meets with Devlin and his colleague Paul Prescott (Louis Calhern). He opens a jewel case holding a luxurious diamond necklace rented for the occasion and fastens it around her neck. (Does this remind you of the ruby necklace rented for Julia Roberts in 1990’s Pretty Woman?)
According to Hollywood Jewels (by Penny Proddow, Debra Healy and Marion Fasel): “Though there is no screen credit, the diamond necklace came from Harry Winston, whose trademark – leaf-shaped clusters of medium-size marquise, pear-shaped, and round diamonds – identified it. Here, the diamonds are set in flexible platinum mounts inspired by a holly wreath.” This necklace is an example of the company’s innovative technique of clustering, in which the design of a piece was dictated by the individual gemstones, rather than the metal setting, to maximize each gem’s brilliance.
Gemologist and astute businessman Harry Winston (1896 – 1978) founded the company in New York City in 1932. Still in operation, it continues to be the Jeweler to the Stars.
Author: Barbara Schwartz (Executive Member – FGI Toronto)
Barbara Schwartz is a costume jewelry historian, jewelry coach, and vintage costume jewelry collector. She sells her collection of unusual and beautiful American and European vintage jewels from the 1920s-1950s via her online boutique, TruFaux Jewels, in-person by appointment, and at special events. Barbara shares her passion for jewelry and fashion history through presentations and publications. Her articles have been published on the CJCI website and in ADORNMENT: The Magazine of Jewelry & Related Arts. Her own interesting story has also been featured in The Story Exchange. Barbara is a member of the Toronto Fashion Group.