An important jewel, this exceptional Harry Winston Diamond and Platinum ring features a 13.9 carat, exceptional white, internally flawless (type IIa), historic cut, pear shape diamond, accented by two tapering baguette cut diamonds. From the original date of purchase, we know that Harry Winston, himself, handpicked the diamond.
Over time, the finest signed, vintage works of the great ateliers have become important jewels in their own right. Hugely sought after, every serious collection of note includes important high jewelry from Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Harry Winston and Bulgari.
Defining works of exquisite beauty, these desirable jewels include:
Van Cleef & Arpels’ Serti Mystérieux (Mystery Set) jewels:
remarkable for the collection’s invisibly set mosaics of seamlessly matched precious stones; the set’s 1938 ruby and diamond ‘Rose’ Brooch, its leaves crafted from brittle emerald, remains a particular masterpiece.
Cartier’s mythical Panthère jewels of the 1930s: created by the legendary Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s artistic director for Haute Joaillerie, and made famous by The Duchess of Windsor.
Harry Winston’s magical, post-war white diamond jewels: including his masterfully simple Winston Cluster earrings, each clip featuring five pear-shaped white diamonds.
Bulgari’s Trombino Ring: Giorgio Bulgari’s dazzling and innovative combination of proud central stone and dazzling shank of pavé set diamonds, remains as coveted today as it was in the 1930s.
With important jewelry, provenance sometimes plays a starring role. Quite simply, extremely famous, important owners beget famous, important jewels of extreme value.
A prime example is the exceptionally fine jewelry collection of The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Commissioned by the Duke & Duchess from the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Harry Winston; each piece is worthy of its ‘Important’ moniker for sheer quality alone.
Of particular note are her Prince of Wales brooch of platinum, yellow gold and diamonds, (bought at Sotheby’s 1987 Sale by Elizabeth Taylor), and Cartier emerald-eyed panther bracelet, pavé set with brilliant and single cut diamonds and calibré cut onyx. Sold in 2010 (allegedly to Madonna), it is the most expensive bracelet ever bought at auction.
“The historical significance of these jewels can’t be overestimated”, says Kulukundis. “The furore they cause on the rare occasions they appear at auction is incomparable. Nothing else comes close.”
Undoubtedly, the love story behind the collection affords it an inimitable significance. Notably, many works are inscribed with declarations of love. One, an art deco Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond bracelet, is engraved in the then still King’s handwriting, with the inscription, “Hold Tight 27.III.36.” Extraordinary tokens of an illicit love that changed the course of British history forever; had these gifts come to light at the time, the outcry would have been catastrophic.
“Here was a man who abdicated as not just King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Empire, but also as Emperor of India. As a testament of love, that takes some beating,” admits John C. Kulukundis.
Jewels with a royal or aristocratic heritage are always of interest. For example, the Romanoff Jewels — the 19th-century jewelry of the Russian Imperial Court, including the art nouveau genius of Peter Carl Fabergé — cause a stir, because they so rarely come onto the market.
“A pair of Georgian Siberian amethyst and diamond earrings, mounted in silver and yellow gold — purporting to be from the court of Catherine the Great — were sold for five times the value of a comparable jewel, simply because of the connection,” explains Kulukundis.
“One of my favourite aristocratic pieces of jewelry are The Harcourt Emeralds,” he adds. “Originally a suite of emeralds from the Victorian era; in 1920, the stones were remounted by Cartier into an art deco necklace for The Viscountess Harcourt. Emeralds are the most difficult colored stones from which to get a perfect match of cut, color, and carat.”
The mesmerising necklace, totalling 150 carats of emeralds, was sold by Christie's in 1989.
Magnificent gems aside, what affords jewelry mythical status is invariably history. One of the few collections to rival the Duchess of Windsor’s was that of her good friend, Elizabeth Taylor. Christie’s New York’s 2011 sale of Taylor’s ‘Legendary Jewels’ proved the most successful single-owner important jewels auction in history. Unsurprisingly, attention focused on rings and necklaces from Taylor’s ex-husband, Richard Burton, who, famously, once remarked,
“I introduced Elizabeth Taylor to beer, and she introduced me to Bulgari.”
Taylor & Burton’s turbulent relationship was fabulously studded with astonishing jewels, including the illustrious La Peregrina Pearl. Exalted as the most symmetrical natural pearl ever discovered, and with a royal history dating from the 16th century, the 50.56 carat pearl was a 37th birthday gift for Taylor. Collaborating with Al Durante of Cartier, Elizabeth had La Peregrina remounted on a white diamond, ruby and pearl necklace of exceptionally high quality. At Christie’s 2011 sale, La Peregrina became the most expensive natural pearl jewel ever sold at auction.
“I feel as though I’m only the custodian of my jewelry. When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home.” Elizabeth Taylor.
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were prolific in their jewelry purchases, with Burton’s most renowned being a 69.42 carat, pear shape, flawless diamond from the legendary jeweler, Harry Winston. Bought by Winston as a rough diamond of 240.8 carats, the stone was eventually renamed the Taylor-Burton Diamond.
Known both as the ‘King of Diamonds’ and ‘Jeweler to the Stars’, Harry Winston handled — and, at points, owned — more of the great named diamonds of the 20th century than any other individual. A revolutionary jeweler, Winston was responsible for the cutting of such famous diamonds as the Vargas, Star of Sierra Leone and the Jonker. Winston purchased the latter stone as a 726 carat diamond in 1935, before cutting it into 13 very important stones, numbered I to XIII. During his career, Kulukundis has been privileged to have handled one of the Jonker diamonds, in its original Harry Winston setting.
Winston’s ingenuity, creativity and remarkable jewels attracted an impressive array of A-list devotees. Notable clients included Grace Kelly, Katherine Hepburn and the Aga Khan III, who looked to Winston for a magnificent 51.85 carat emerald cut diamond engagement ring for H.H. Begum Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan. Today, Winston’s work remains in very high demand.