King of Diamonds: Harry Winston, the Definitive Biography of an American Icon (Hardcover)
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This authoritative and intimate biography, written by his only living son, Ronald Winston, marries the Gilded Age glamour and romance of Edith Wharton with the ruthless family dynamics of HBO’s hit series, Succession.
Few American success stories rival that of Harry Winston. Born Harry Weinstein, he came from humble roots—his parents were poor Jewish immigrants who left Ukraine around 1890 for New York, where they settled and started a small jewelry business. His genius for spotting priceless gems emerged young. When Harry was twelve years old, he recognized a two-carat emerald in a pawn shop and bought it for 25 cents, selling it two days later for $800—a massive sum in the early 1900s. From that moment on, Harry became obsessed with gems, especially diamonds. A compact, unassuming man with no formal education, but unlimited drive and ambition, Harry Weinstein transformed himself into Harry Winston, the enigmatic figure who created the world’s most prestigious luxury brand.
Harry Winston built his empire while the Depression raged, World War II reshaped the world, and America entered its post-war period of prosperity. In this riveting biography, readers get a bird’s eye view of the dangers of the diamond trade and the lengths men would go to get their hands on the best of the “rough.” There’s also a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, who clamored for Winston’s gems. Although he traveled the world doing business with kings, queens, and movie stars, Winston remained a devoted family man, whose chief wish was that his sons carry on the legacy he had built.
Harry’s older son Ronald Winston worked alongside his father for decades. After Harry’s death, Ron grew the company into the international brand that is still revered today. He ran it expertly, until he was forced to sell the company, due to his younger brother’s maligning litigation. This is the story of a family business that survived and thrived for more than a century, until it was undone by one, bitter family member.
KING OF DIAMONDS is at once a portrait of American ingenuity at its best, and the story of sibling rivalry that is Shakespearean in its tragedy.
About the Author
Ronald Winston, the eldest son of Harry and Edna Winston, was born in New York City in 1941 and raised in Westchester, New York. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, he was twice recognized by the American Rocket Society for research in solid propellants. He graduated from Harvard in 1963 with a degree in chemistry, then worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University developing rocket propulsion technologies. In his late twenties, at the request of his father, he joined the executive team at Harry Winston, Inc. When his father passed away in 1978, Ron assumed leadership of the company, turning it into the global luxury brand that is revered today. He left the company in 2013 and returned to his first love, science. Winston holds many science patents and is currently working in biotech on developing a cure for cancer. He lives in California with his wife and son.
William Stadiem is the author of such bestsellers as Mr. S: My Life with Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe Confidential, and Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond. He has contributed to Vanity Fair and Town & Country and was the Hollywood columnist for Andy Warhol’s Interview and the restaurant critic for Los Angeles Magazine. Stadiem is also a screenwriter whose credits include Elizabeth Taylor’s last starring vehicle, Franco Zeffirelli’s Young Toscanini, and the television series L.A. Law. He lives in Santa Monica, California.
“A thrilling tale of entrepreneurship and an enthralling look into one of the jewelry industry's most famous self-made men.”
—Instore (the magazine for the American jewelry store owner)
“Winston pulls back the curtain to reveal the man behind the iconic brand. A story about family love, loyalty, and a shattering betrayal.”
—Sally Mann, bestselling author of Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
“You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge one by its title. And King of Diamonds says it all. Published 65 years after famed jeweler Harry Winston donated the 45-carat Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, his only living son, Ronald Winston, has penned a biography that offers an enlightening glimpse into the life of a man who once owned a third of the world’s most famous gems. Replete with stories about all of the business rivalries, red-carpet loans, and high-profile clients you could ask for, it’s as glamorous as nonfiction gets.”
“When I find myself dreaming of diamonds, which happens from time to time, I think ‘Harry Winston.’ Ron dressed me in Harry Winston jewels when I hosted the Oscars, and Miss Piggy and I were draped in a bajillion
dollars’ worth of them when we sang our rendition of ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’ Ron’s love for his father—and the company they built—as well as his wicked sense of humor shine through. King of Diamonds
is an important biography and a great read.”
“King of Diamonds is a slick, deep dive into the world of pure money: the diamond business and the greatest American purveyor of this rarest of gems. Harry Winston’s life was one long extravaganza, like living inside a Fabergé egg. The saga of his rise and his son’s losing battle to save his legendary emporium is a tale of obsession, daring, deception, and a life beyond the dreams of avarice.”
—John Lahr, author of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh