So, you have found the perfect person that you want to spend the rest of your life with and want to propose in the most romantic way possible. But everyone knows that one of the most important elements of a great proposal is a breathtaking ring.
And you don’t want just any ring. Perhaps you are looking for one with a history and with a name that is well known throughout the world. Since building up his reputation in the 1940s, Harry Winston engagement rings became highly desirable in the world of exclusive jewelry
Many famous people such as Jennifer Lopez and Halle Berry had donned Harry Winston pieces and helped elevate the brand’s appeal in recent years. In this review, I’m going to share my personal shopping experience and insights into their diamond engagement rings.
Let’s jump right in…
Here is a list of topics we will be covering:
Born at the turn of the century in 1896, Harry Winston spent most of his time under the tutelage of his father, who was a jeweler before him. Harry was not only a dedicated and hard-working child, but one who understood the value of a dollar and used his resourcefulness to forge ahead in the diamond world.
By the tender age of twelve, Harry Winston already had an indepth knowledge of gemstones and a knack for being a great businessman. The story goes that he found a genuine emerald on sale for a quarter. He purchased it and made a profit of $800 when he flipped the stone to someone else within 24 hours!
In 1932, Harry Winston started his company in New York City and built his reputation for being an innate gemologist with superb business acumen. He went on to revolutionize fine jewelry designs and acquired some of the world’s most famous diamonds like the Jonker and Hope diamond.
He had numerous defining moments in his career and one of them was correctly identifying the business potential of the 601 carats Lesotho diamond. This massive diamond was purchased and subsequently recut into 18 smaller ones that sold amazingly well.
Throughout his career, Harry Winston amassed a huge collection of famous diamonds and worked with many well-known celebrities. As a result, he became known as the “King of Diamonds” and the “Jeweler to the Stars” in the industry. Today, Harry Winston operates their stores (they term them salons) in more than 40 different global locations.
When it comes to Harry Winston’s diamond engagement rings, there is a set of quality specifications that they adhere to. This is a pretty common practice that is seen in other big international brands like Tiffany and Cartier because they use this as a marketing gimmick for their products.
On their website, Harry Winston state that they only carry D, E and F colorless diamonds because “they are the rarest and the most valuable”. When it comes to clarity, they only select eyeclean VS2 or better diamonds. Cutwise, they limit their diamonds to Very Good and Excellent cut ratings. Their diamonds all come with a GIA grading report and have either faint or no fluorescence.
To an uneducated shopper, this may all sound like rainbows and sunshine. However, if you have some basic knowledge of the 4Cs, you will realize that there’s nothing great about their diamond specifications. In fact, I would even argue that any company who’s marketing diamonds as being “cut and polished to maximize their beauty” should never have anything to do with “Very Good” cut diamonds.
In my opinion, any company that truly cares about light performance and a diamond’s beauty would not carry any diamonds in GIA’s Very Good cut category. If brilliant and beauty were really of utmost importance, why would a company settle for a lower-tier cut rating?
For some context, here are 2 examples of GIA Very Good cut diamonds to give you an idea of how they look like. For more details, you can click on the images to interact with the diamonds.
Personally speaking, if I was paying an exorbitant brand premium for a diamond, it had better not be a sub-par Very Good cut diamond. But that’s just me and my opinion. Would you want to pay top dollar for a diamond only to get something that doesn’t have the best performance and sparkle?
Screenshot of Harry Winston engagement rings available on their website catalog.
Harry Winston offers a variety of cutting styles and designs for their engagement rings that are made in platinum. They are most well known for their classic 3-stone ring designs which consist of a center stone of your choice and 2 tapered baguette sidestones.
While they do offer a few other pave and halo ring designs, you will notice that their offerings are very limited compared to other retailers. At the time of writing this review, I counted a total of only 29 unique designs (Bridal Couture + Engagement Rings categories).
And if you already have a certain design in mind that isn’t offered by Harry Winston, this can be a big turn off. Now, you may wonder if you could customize a ring with them. Unfortunately, they will only entertain it if the style meets their standards or if you are a really special client.
Harry Winston does not have any return or exchange policies. Their upgrade policy is vague as well. When asked, I was told that the offer of an upgrade depends on a case by case basis and isn’t guaranteed.
Now, I want to point out that Harry Winston offers very generic looking engagement ring designs that can be found at the majority of other jewelers like White Flash and James Allen. Of course, people who work at Harry Winston will always claim that their craftsmanship is superior.
Well, that’s the same marketing lines I hear from salespeople at Cartier and Tiffany too. The thing is, there are plenty of jewelers who fabricate settings to a high workmanship standard and it isn’t unique to any particular vendor. Check out a couple of the reviews I performed here and here to find out more.
Regardless of where you are in the world, Harry Winston stores always give off a grand and royalty-like vibe. The local Harry Winston store I visited is located in Singapore’s central business district and in an upscale mall called Ion Orchard.
Upon entering the store, I was greeted by a friendly salesperson and the interior of the store looks very posh. The warm lights, color palette and ambiance were very welcoming. I browsed around the store for a while before I asked to see some of the engagement rings they had in store.
The salesperson was attentive to what I was looking for and she brought out several rings in the 1 carat size range to show me. In terms of knowledge, I would say that Harry Winston has decently well-trained staff who have some basic degree of gemological knowledge.
However, when it comes to quantifying light performance and more advanced questions like how the depth, lower/upper girdle proportions affect the visual appearance of the diamond, I didn’t receive satisfactory answers. All I got was simply a vague, blanket answer that Harry Winston has the “best” selection process and I am guaranteed a beautiful looking diamond crafted with a “high degree of facet precision”.
To be fair, I don’t expect junior salespeople to have an indepth knowledge of the 4Cs or really know what they are selling. This phenomenon is common among all the big international brands and other smaller jewelers alike.
Being a well-known international brand, I think it is pretty obvious that the price of a Harry Winston diamond engagement ring is going to be high. What took me by surprise is that the price premium for their products is much higher than Tiffany and Cartier when performing a like-for-like comparison.
For the record, I think the prices for Tiffany and Cartier are already excessive based on the quality of the product they are selling. But, Harry Winston takes things to another level with their even higher price premium.
During my visit, I looked at a number of rings across various carat sizes from 0.5 carats to 1.5 carats in size. One of the rings that caught my attention was a halo and pave diamond ring (The One Solitaire Diamond Ring design) that featured a 0.56ct E color VVS2 diamond.
I was quoted an eye-popping $17,500 (after currency conversion from SGD) for the ring and I had to double-check with the salesperson to make sure I was hearing the figures right. Being in the industry, I have a good idea of how much things cost and the fair value of a diamond ring.
While it is common for big international brands (i.e. Cartier/Tiffany) to charge a 2 times more for their products, it is the first time I have come across a branded company that charges a price that is at least 3 to 4 times more!
As a practical person, the question I have in mind is whether I am getting three or four times the value from the product. Here’s a direct price comparison of buying a super ideal cut diamond (GIA #6332087171) and a similarly styled ring from James Allen.
Adding up the 2 components, the total cost of the diamond ring tallies to $3970 ($2420 + $1550). If you do the math, I can buy 4 of the same ring from James Allen with a better cut quality diamond instead of paying the excessive premium for the Harry Winston ring.
I was also shown a platinum solitaire ring design with a 1.08 carat D color VVS1 clarity center stone graded by GIA. The price that was quoted to me was roughly $42,000 (after currency conversion to US dollars). Surprisingly, when it comes to larger sized diamonds, the price premium is relatively lower compared to what they charge for their lower-end goods.
Don’t get me wrong, the price of a 1 carat size engagement ring from Harry Winston is still at least 2 times more! I performed another comparison against White Flash to give you an idea of how much it would cost when buying a similar ring design with a top tier center diamond.
The total cost of buying a similar 1 carat sized diamond at White Flash adds up to be $15,515. That’s a whopping 2.5 times LESS than the price of the Harry Winston ring I was shown in the store.
At this point, I want to be clear about something. When comparing these online retailers to Harry Winston, it isn’t only about comparing higher quality against lower quality. The workmanship standards from James Allen and White Flash is every bit just as good as Harry Winston’s.
I would even say that vendors like White Flash pay more attention to the cut quality and light performance of a diamond than the majority of big brand names. More importantly, they readily offer transparent and verifiable light performance data to help you make an educated decision instead of throwing marketing pitches at you.
Speaking from the perspective of a practical person, getting the best bang for my buck and having tangible data for assessment would be key factors when buying a diamond ring.
On the other hand, shopping in a physical store also severely limits the number of diamond options that are available at any given point in time. This limits your ability to cherry-pick a diamond that best suits your specifications and budget.
Harry Winston is a brand that has an illustrious history and their products come with a hefty premium. Sure, you won’t find an “ugly” diamond ring in their stores but they sure aren’t the place to get the most beautiful diamonds in the market.
If you are specifically looking for a lower colored diamond (e.g. a J or K color diamond) to match a vintage style setting or a yellow gold setting, Harry Winston would not be the best place to shop for your diamond ring.
I understand that brands market and create “exclusivity” by choosing to position their products in a certain way. That’s fine. As a consumer, it would do you well to see and understand how diamonds look like across the spectrum.
In the video below, I’ve performed a comparison across D, H and K color diamonds as well as across the different clarity grades to give you a visual perspective of them in real life. While some of these diamonds have low clarity grades, they are eyeclean and you will never see inclusions without magnification aid.
You actually don’t need a high clarity grade to achieve a beautiful looking diamond. What you need is to ignore the bells and whistles and place your emphasis on cut quality. And this means avoiding “Very Good” cut diamonds altogether.
Undeniably, the shopping experience in the physical store is enjoyable and their opulent packaging is one of the best I’ve come across. However, I find it extremely hard to justify the huge price premium Harry Winston places on their engagement rings.
I don’t know about you but I’m someone who is practical. After all, it is the engagement ring that’s going to be worn on the recipient’s hands and be seen by the world. The nice packaging will be staying in the drawer and the shopping experience will wane with time.
In short, these intangible things don’t have long term value for the wearer but yet, they add up to the price premium you are paying for. With all that said, I deeply respect the Harry Winston brand and the reputation the founder has built up with his philanthropy.
While they may not represent good value for money for the majority of consumers, they are a store I would recommend for high rollers who are looking for the multi-million dollar masterpiece that can’t be found anywhere else. In my opinion, that’s the niche market where Harry Winston really shines.
Hopefully, you found this Harry Winston review insightful and useful. Now, I want to hear from you. Is Harry Winston a brand that resonates with you on a personal level? Would you buy a diamond engagement ring from them? Leave a comment below and let me know!