Gulf Pearl Parure

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Origin of Name

Parure (pah-rur) in French means adornment. The word was first used in the 17th century in Europe, referring to a set of three or more matching pieces of jewelry, made out of the same materials. Subsequently the meaning of the word was expanded to include an entire wardrobe or suite of matching jewelry, that included items like diadem, tiara, bandeau, comb, necklace, bracelet, rings, earrings and pendants, brooch, shoulder brooches, stomacher, belt and belt-buckles. Parures are usually named according to the dominant gemstone used in their components, such as diamond parure, emerald parure, pearl parure etc. Sometimes two gemstones may be co-dominant, and both names are included in naming the parure, such as emerald and diamond parure, pearl and diamond parure etc. In the Gulf Parure the dominant gemstones are pearls; hence the parure is referred to as the "Gulf Pearl Parure.

The use of the name "Gulf" for the pearl parure, may be due to one of two possible reasons or both. The first reason is that the pearls used in the component pieces of the parure possibly originated in the Persian Gulf, one of the most ancient sources of natural saltwater pearls in the world, where pearls had been harvested since the 3rd millennium B.C. The second possible reason is that the present  anonymous owner of the pearl parure, possibly hails from one of the eight countries bordering the Persian Gulf - Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. Possibly it can be a combination of both reasons that imparted the name "Gulf" for the pearl parure.


Characteristics of the Pearl Parure

The Gulf Pearl Parure consists of the following components :-

1) An articulated four-rowed pearl and diamond necklace

2) A three-rowed pearl and diamond bracelet

3) A pair of pearl and diamond ear pendants

4) A pearl and diamond cluster ring

The entire parure consists of 193 natural pearls, of which the largest 128 pearls weigh a total of 1,300 grains (325 carats) and 166 diamonds, of which the largest 66 diamonds weigh a total of 160 carats. Each of the four components of the parure, has the signature inscription of Jacques Timey, an alternative name for Harry Winston.


Characteristics of the pearl and diamond necklace

The "Gulf Pearl Necklace" is an elaborate, articulated, four-rowed pearl and diamond necklace, in which the pearl and diamond rows alternate with one another. The length of the necklace is 36.5 cm equivalent to 14 ins. which lies in the range of a "choker." Out of the four rows only the upper row, consisting of 57 natural, white, spherical or near-spherical, saltwater pearls, go right round the necklace, with a clasp situated behind. The larger pearls in this row are situated in the front, and the size of the pearls decrease gradually towards the rear. The pearls in this row vary in size from 5.1 mm to 9.1 mm. The other three rows of the necklace arise from the upper row of pearls, in such a way, that only 22 pearls form the single row of pearls behind, that suspends the whole necklace. Thus four alternating rows of pearls and diamonds are found only in the front part of the necklace, that gets exposed when the necklace lies on the upper chest region.

The Diamond and Pearl Articulated Necklace of the Gulf Pearl Parure

The Diamond and Pearl Articulated Necklace of the Gulf Pearl Parure

The second row of the necklace is made up of alternating graduated round brilliant-cut and marquise-cut diamonds. The larger diamonds are in the center, and decrease in size gradually towards the ends. The third row consists of paired natural pearl drops, each pair arranged as an inverted-V; the larger pairs being placed at the center, and decreasing gradually towards the ends. The fourth and the last row consists of alternating drop-shaped and round brilliant-cut diamonds. The drop-shaped diamonds arise from the base of the inverted V-shaped paired pearl drops, forming an inverted trefoil. The round brilliant-cut diamonds, are placed between the inverted V-shaped paired pearl drops, in line with the round brilliant-cut diamond in the second row. Large drop-shaped pearls hang from each of the round brilliant-cut diamonds in the fourth row. The largest pearl drop weighing 122.84 grains hangs as the centerpiece of the necklace, along its median line. Five graduated pearl drops, decreasing in size from the center outwards, are placed on either side of the median line. Thus there are eleven natural pearl drops in the necklace hanging freely from the round brilliant-cut diamonds in the fourth row. This extraordinary pearl and diamond articulated necklace, is the ultimate in its design and perfection, for which Harry Winston was internationally renowned.


Characteristics of the pearl and diamond bracelet

The bracelet which is 19.5 cm or 7.7 ins. long, is made up of a central row of alternating round brilliant-cut and marquise-cut diamonds, bounded on either side by a single row of spherical or near-spherical pearls. Free drop-shaped pearls alternating with free pear-shaped diamonds arise from either side of the two rows of pearls. The largest pearls and diamonds are situated around the middle of the bracelet, and the sizes decrease gradually towards both ends. Thus the bracelet is slightly broader at the middle than towards the ends.

The Bracelet of the Gulf Pearl Parure

The Bracelet of the Gulf Pearl Parure

The central row consists of 12 round brilliant-cut and 12 marquise-cut diamonds, alternating with one another. The largest round brilliants are situated on either side of the median line of the bracelet, gradually decreasing in size towards the ends. The single row of spherical pearls have 36 pearls in each row. Here too the largest pearls are found along the median line, gradually decreasing in size on either side. The largest pair of free drop-shaped pearls arising from the single row of pearls are found along the median line. The size of the free drop-shaped pearls decrease gradually towards the ends. There are two pairs of free drop-shaped pearls on either side of the median pair of free drop-shaped pearls, making a total of 10 free drop-shaped pearls in the bracelet. Pairs of free pear-shaped diamonds arise in between  the pairs of free drop-shaped pearls. There are six pairs of free pear-shaped diamonds in the bracelet. There is a regular gap of two pearls between a pair of free drop-shaped pearls and the adjacent pair of free pear-shaped diamonds. A single pair of small round-shaped free pearls are situated at one end of the bracelet, that forms a clasp.


Characteristics of the pair of pearl and diamond ear pendants

The pair of perfectly identical ear pendants have a length of 5.5 cm each. The similarity between the two pendants are too close, that it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. The centerpiece of the ear stud or clip is a perfectly spherical natural pearl, surrounded by eight brilliant-cut small diamonds, forming a rosette. The pendant that arises from the ear-stud is composed of a quatrefoil and a single large drop-shaped pearl arising from below the quatrefoil. The quatrefoil is composed of a pair of smaller drop-shaped pearls forming an inverted-V, and two round brilliant-cut diamonds situated above and below.

Pearl and Diamond Pendant Earrings of the Gulf Pearl Parure

Pearl and Diamond Pendant Earrings of the Gulf Pearl Parure

Characteristics of the pearl and diamond cluster ring

The cluster ring, of ring size 6, is made up of a central large spherical white pearl surrounded by eleven round brilliant-cut diamonds forming a rosette or cluster.

Diamond and Pearl Cluster Ring of the Gulf Pearl Parure

Diamond and Pearl Cluster Ring of the Gulf Pearl Parure

History of the Gulf Pearl Parure

The source of the pearls in the parure

The fact that the  pearl parure was designed by Harry Winston, gives an idea of the period in which the parure originated, which should be somewhere between 1932, the year he incorporated his business and started manufacturing his own jewelry, and 1978, the year of his death. During this period production of natural saltwater pearls from the traditional sources of pearls around the world had almost ceased, mainly due to the success of Mikimoto's efforts to culture pearls artificially, and the acceptance of these cultured products worldwide, after some initial consumer resistance. Perhaps, it was only in Western Australia that a pearl fishing industry existed until the 1950s, but this was mainly to cater to the mother-of-pearl industry that produced shell buttons. Natural pearls were only a byproduct of this industry. This industry also collapsed after shell buttons were replaced by cheaper plastic buttons.

Thus the natural pearls used in the Gulf Pearl Parure were most probably pearls produced in the traditional pearl producing areas of the world, such as the Persian Gulf, when they were in active production. The pearls were probably part of another setting or part of a loose collection of natural pearls that was acquired by Harry Winston.


The owners of the Gulf Pearl Parure until  November 2006 ?

After Harry Winston designed the Gulf Pearl Parure, he sold it to an unidentified Royal House, who had been his faithful customers. This was not surprising as Harry Winston had been the official jeweler to many royal houses around the world, and was referred to as the "king of jewelers and the jeweler to kings." The Parure remained with this unidentified Royal House, for an unknown period of time, until it surfaced at a Christie's auction in Geneva, on November 14, 2006, as part of a magnificent collection of jewelry and watches belonging to this particular Royal House. The identity of the Royal House was not disclosed, but it was known that the Royal House belonged to one of the Middle Eastern countries. The newspaper, "Middle East Times" speculated that the Royal House was most probably from Saudi Arabia.


Pre-sale exhibition of the Royal House collection at Dubai

A pre-sale exhibition of the Royal House jewelry and watches collection that was to go under the hammer at Christie's Geneva, on November 14, 2006, was held at the Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai, on the 27th and 28th October, 2006. The Royal House collection consisted of 317 lots and had a pre-sale estimate of $20 million. One of the lots was the magnificent Gulf Pearl Parure by Harry Winston, whose pre-sale estimate alone was $4.2 to $6.3 million. Another spectacular pearl and diamond suite, consisting of an eye-catching large button pearl of 21.5 mm diameter, weighing 202.26 grains, and an 8-row pearl necklace, was valued at $600,000 to $800,000.

The Royal House collection also included an impressive selection of diamonds, such as a 21.37-carat, D-color, VVS2 clarity, pear-shaped diamond, valued at $700,000 to $1,000,000; a 29.01-carat, D-Color, VVS2 clarity, cushion-cut diamond, incorporated as the centerpiece of a spectacular bracelet by Gerard, valued at $800,000 to $1,000,000; and a diamond parure by Fred, incorporating pear-shaped, fancy light to fancy intense yellow diamonds, having a total weight of 70 carats, estimated at $600,000 to $800,000.

Apart from pearl and diamond jewelry, the Royal House collection also featured some valuable gem set wristwatches by celebrated makers like Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Audemars, Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget and others. The watches that were in virtually unused condition, comprised a total of 48 lots.

The exhibition held at Dubai, also featured other collections that were due to come up for sale at Christie's Geneva, on November 14, 2006, such as an exquisite collection of jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, consisting of 50 signature pieces, which included the famous ruby and diamond brooch known as the "Millennium Brooch," that was being put up for auction, as part of their Centennial Commemorative Sale.


Christie's sale of the Royal House Collection at Geneva, on November 14, 2006. The Gulf Pearl Parure sold for $4.1 million.

The Royal House Collection, that went under the hammer on November 14, 2006, at Christie's Geneva, netted a total of $31 million, which was $11 million in excess of the pre-sale estimate of $20 million. The Gulf Pearl Parure by Harry Winston was one of the star attractions of the show, that sold for $4.1 million, almost on par with the lower pre-sale estimate of $4.2 million. The identity of the new owner of the Gulf Pearl Parure was also withheld by Christie's. Thus the ownership of the exquisitely crafted Gulf Pearl Parure by Harry Winston, was merely transferred from one anonymous owner to another, at the Christie's auction held in Geneva, on November 14, 2006. The Gulf Pearl Parure was accompanied by a report from the SSEF Swiss Gemological Institute, bearing No. 46667, dated June 30, 2006, stating that the pearls were natural saltwater pearls. Another 66 reports dated from June 26 to July  29, 2006, from the Gemological Institute of America, gave the color, cut, clarity and carat weight, of 66 diamonds incorporated in the parure.


Harry Winston - A short biography

His early life and training as a jeweler by his father Jacob

Popularly known as "the King of Jewelers and the Jeweler to the Kings," Harry Winston, an American jeweler, was born in New York, on March 1, 1896, to Ukrainian parents who had immigrated to the United States. Faced with the challenges of settling down in a new country, Harry Winston's father Jacob, started a small jewelry business in New York, which gradually evolved into a modest enterprise. From a very young age Harry worked in his father's shop, where he learnt all aspects of the trade under the guidance of his father. Harry who was a gifted child was quick to grasp all the skills of the trade, and it is said that when he was barely 12 years old he used his ability in identifying fine gemstones to earn $800 after spending only 25 cents. The boy happened to pass a pawn shop along the streets of New York, when his attention was drawn by a tray of junk jewelry in the shop window. Harry's sharp eyes were focused on a particular ring among the junk, that was set with a green stone. The boy instantly entered the shop and purchased the ring for 25 cents, the giveaway price at which all items in the junk tray were sold. Little did the owner of the shop realize that what he was parting with was actually an expensive 2-carat emerald, which Harry sold two days later for $800.

Harry Winston

Harry Winston

Harry Winston sets up his one-man firm, the Premier Diamond Company, and enters the estate jewelry business

In the year 1920, when Harry was just 24 years old, he founded a one-man firm, which he called The Premier Diamond Company, with an initial capital of only $2,000, that represented his savings. As was the case for newly formed companies, Harry Winston had to go through an initial difficult period, while his company was trying to discover a niche in the competitive jewelry market, in order to survive. The niche he discovered was the estate jewelry business. Inheritants of estate jewelry often disposed of their unfashionable jewelry of the Belle Epoque period, such as stomachers, brooches, ornate tiaras and pendants for a fraction of their value, and Harry Winston lost no time in purchasing such jewelry. He dismantled such jewelry, especially the ones set with old-cut diamonds. He got the diamonds re-cut in modern cutting styles, such as the brilliant-cut, that increased their brilliance and sparkle, which he then set modern-style jewelry to suite the new generation.


His acquisition of the Huntington jewels which he modifies into contemporary designs

One of the first significant estate jewelry he purchased was the Stoddard inheritance in 1925, which was followed by the estate of Mrs. Arabella Huntington, the wife of the railroad magnate Henry Huntington. During her lifetime, with her husband's enormous resources at her disposal, Arabella put together one of the most prestigious jewelry collections in the world, which included signature pieces from renowned jewelers such as Cartier's, Van Cleef & Arpels and others. The designs in the collection were mostly old fashioned, and Harry Winston, demonstrating his extraordinary skills at jewelry crafting, recast most of the Arabella collection into contemporary designs, that had a ready market and was sold at prices with a considerable profit margin. His greatest achievement was the dismantling of the famous Huntington's pearl necklace, that measured 1.5 meters (150 cm or 59 inches), that under modern classification of pearl necklaces fall under the category of "rope." The necklace cost Mrs. Huntington $1,000,0000, and took such a long time to assemble, because of careful matching of the pearls, that by the time it was completed, Mrs. Huntington had unfortunately gone blind and was not able to appreciate its beauty. Winston split up the necklace into smaller parts and sold them to customers around the world, and was subsequently fond of boasting that the Huntington pearls now adorned the necks of at least two dozen fashion-conscious  women around the world.


The House of Harry Winston founded in 1932 becomes one of the world's largest and most prestigious jewelry houses

In 1932, twelve years after he had first formed his one-man firm, he had accumulated sufficient funds and attained financial independence, that he was able to incorporate his business under the name Harry Winston Inc. The company also began manufacturing its own jewelry, that was retailed through a network of retail outlets. The House of Harry Winston eventually became very popular among the general public and a household name in the United States. Today, the company has attained the status of one of the world's largest and most prestigious jewelry houses, with extensive manufacturing and wholesale operations, and a network of exclusive retail salons in the United States, in New York, Beverley Hills, Las Vegas, Dallas, Honolulu, Bal Harbour, and Chicago, and overseas such as Paris, Geneva, Tokyo. The company that specializes in manufacturing diamond jewelry, has state-of-the-art facilities at its New York's Fifth Avenue Headquarters, that undertakes specialized operations of cutting the rough diamonds, polishing, designing and creating finished jewels.


Harry Winston's contribution to the designing of modern jewelry

Harry Winston's contribution to the designing of modern jewelry, was the development of new mounting techniques, that made use of hand made flexible wire settings of platinum and gold, that showed more of the gemstones, enhancing their sparkling effect with greater exposure to light. This method of mounting  has become an essential part of modern jewelry design, whose origins are mainly credited to Harry Winston.


Around a third of the world's famous diamonds passed through Harry Winston's hands

His interest in diamonds was not confined to smaller diamonds alone, but also larger diamonds, that were characterized as famous diamonds. It is said that about one-third of the world's famous diamonds had passed through his hands. Some of these diamonds had an illustrious past such as the Hope diamond, Porter Rhodes diamond, Portuguese diamond, the Idol's Eye diamond, the Indore Pears diamond, the Jonker diamond, the Liberator diamond, the Nassak diamond, the Nepal diamond, the Niarchos diamond, the Oppenheimer diamond etc. The Hope diamond, with a notorious past due to a curse supposedly placed on it, was acquired by Harry Winston from the estate of Evalyn Walsh in 1949. The notorious diamond remained with him until 1958, when he donated it to the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, where it is exhibited today in the Harry Winston Room  of the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals. Other famous diamonds were newly discovered crystals of enormous size, such as the Lesotho Brown diamond discovered in 1967 and the Star of Sierra Leone discovered in 1972, which yielded 18 and 17 diamonds respectively, after cutting and processing by Harry Winston's master cutters.


Harry Winston sets the precedent for lending out jewels for the Annual Oscar Awards

Harry Winston set the precedent in 1943 of lending out glittering jewelry set with diamonds, rubies and other precious stones to celebrities attending the Annual Oscar Award ceremonies. His gesture served a dual purpose at this important annual international event. While adding more glitter to the ceremonies by bedecking the celebrities with jewels, the event also served to highlight the glamour associated with high-end jewelry produced by his company, that boosted their sales. Every year Harry Winston loans about $200 million worth of jewelry to celebrities attending the ceremony.

In 1999, Harry Winston set a record for loaning jewels to celebrities by giving out $41 million worth of jewels to a single celebrity Whoopi Goldberg, which included a single diamond ring worth $15 million. In the 2002 awards ceremony some of the actresses who wore Harry Winston's jewels included Halle Berry, who won the best actress award,  and Sissy Spacek, the best actress nominee. In 1998, actress Gloria Stewart of "Titanic" fame wore a $20 million blue diamond necklace from Harry Winston. In 1997 Faye Dunaway wore a suite of jewelry worth $1.6 million for the Oscars, that included a diamond and ruby necklace, matching earclips, bracelets, and a diamond and ruby ring.


Harry Winston also loaned out jewels for movies on request

Apart from loaning out jewels for the Oscars, Harry Winston also loaned out jewels for movies, on the sets, on request. One such instance was when Whoopi Goldberg appeared as Queen Constantina in Disney's TV movie "Cindrella." The jewels supplied included a 70-carat diamond ring valued at $9 million and a necklace worth $2.5 million. Another instance was in the movie "How to Lose a Guy in 10 days"  in which actress Kate Hudson appeared in some scenes wearing an 87-carat diamond pendant, created especially for her by Harry Winston.


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Back to Famous Pearls

Related :-

1) Pearl of Kuwait

2) The Cambridge and Delhi Dunbar Parure


References -

1) The Gulf Pearl Parure - A Unique and Magnificent Natural Pearl and Diamond Parure, by Harry Winston - Kathia Pinckernelle.

2) Pearls Sell Big for Royal House - by Deidre Woollard. Geneva-related stories.

3) Christie's Open Glittering Dubai Exhibition of Magnificent Jewels, Watches, and International Auction Highlights Tomorrow. Oct. 26, 2006.

4) Harry Winston - Jeweler to Stars.

5) Harry Winston - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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