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A new jewel in the crown

More than diamonds dazzled as the glitterati gathered for a gala grand opening and fundraiser at the new Harry Winston.

January 22, 2006|Valli Herman | Times Staff Writer

IT was hard to remember to look at faces. All eyes were busy scanning wrists, hands, necks and case upon case of deluxe bling.

After all, this was the grand opening of the new Harry Winston flagship salon at 310 N. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It's just a short walk from the original store at 371 N. Rodeo that has dazzled passersby and important collectors alike since 1986.

For the Jan. 11 opening, held conveniently on opening day of the Celebrity Big Gem Hunt that is called Hollywood awards season, stars, stylists and costume designers poured forth to get a look. There were limousines. There was copious champagne. There were stars, jewels, jewels, jewels -- excitement!

Most of the 300 invitees dressed in elegant black cocktail attire and demure (for this crowd) jewelry. When in the presence of the 71.73-carat Lesotho Diamond, or rare, nearly 6-carat pink and blue diamonds, one doesn't compete unless, of course, you're Candy Spelling.

Sashed from shoulder to hip with four, yard-long strands of diamonds that were weighted with a diamond-studded pendant, Mrs. Diamond America took the prize for most decorated -- that and her egg-sized diamond ring (what was it, 40 carats? 90,210 carats?).

Harry Winston President James Seuss, late of Stella McCartney's clothing company, is refocusing the company, which had wandered a bit. There was talk years back of making the storefront and products less intimidating. Then they launched a short-lived line of handbags decorated with precious gems.

No more. Harry Winston is your man for important gems, future family heirlooms and $50,000-starting-price 25th anniversary gifts. There's even a second-story private viewing room, dominated by a portrait of what looks like the moon (why not ask for it?), to accommodate those $10-million purchases.

Though the boutique is large, it's wonderfully intimate too. Architect Thierry Despont said he designed it to feel like a jewel box. Mission accomplished. In the high-ceilinged main room, the walls are upholstered in cognac velvet that surrounds gilt-framed, inset cabinets.

Standing in the entry foyer, Despont gently directed visitors to cast their eyes skyward. Installed in the ceiling like a giant gem, his terraced glass chandelier seemed to drip windblown glass droplets. The chandelier was inspired by an enormous piece the company once made for a maharajah.

Royalty has always been important to the Harry Winston image, and that hasn't changed. Among the glittery guests was a suntanned guy in blond dreadlocks who is royalty in this town -- professional skateboarder Tony Alva.

"A guy just asked me if I could put Harry Winston diamonds on his skateboard," Alva said. The reply? "Sure. Why not?"

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