If you can believe it, the beloved rom-com Maid in Manhattan turns 20 this year. While there’s no shortage of iconic jewelry movie moments in Hollywood history, the glamorous reveal of Jennifer Lopez’s character, Marisa Ventura, wearing a showstopping pink dress with the famed Harry Winston Cluster necklace and earrings is at the top of our list. In honor of the movie’s 20th anniversary, we look at the enduring beauty and timeless style of Harry Winston’s Cluster collection.
The Cluster collection was first designed in the 1940s and was, at the time, a revolutionary approach to jewelry design. The design has rather humble origins. One snowy evening, Mr. Harry Winston noticed the delicate shimmer of freshly fallen snow on a decorative holly wreath at his home. The snow was dusted on the intertwined holly leaves, and Mr. Winston had a revelation. The final design of the wreath was determined by the shape of the holly leaves, not the branches that created the base. He was inspired to create a jewelry collection using the same principle, letting the shape of the diamonds, not the metal settings that supported them, dictate the shape of the jewelry. This would let the natural beauty and brilliance of the diamonds shine through.
This led to the creation of the cluster technique. Mr. Winston and his designers used diamonds in different cuts and sizes and grouped them in different three-dimensional clusters set in platinum. They used pear, marquise, and round brilliant diamonds in their designs, creating pieces that were more like miniature diamond sculptures than jewelry. By placing the diamonds at different heights and angles, more light could reach the diamonds. This maximized their brilliance and allowed the pieces to sparkle from all directions. Today, the collection is called the Winston Cluster collection. Jewelry connoisseurs still refer to Cluster necklaces as “Wreath necklaces” in honor of the design’s original inspiration.
There are many different Cluster designs today, but perhaps the most iconic is the large Cluster necklace. This necklace features 195 diamonds, all D, E, or F color, set in platinum. The central motif recalls a holly wreath but rendered in diamonds. The central stone is a large pear-cut diamond, set slightly off-center for more drama. It’s surrounded by significant marquise- and pear-cut diamonds, all set at different angles and heights. The overlapping diamonds and different angles create a sculptural effect and add extra brilliance and fire to the piece. More marquise and pear-cut diamonds fan out from this cluster, culminating in two rows of diamonds that encircle the neck. In total, this high-jewelry necklace has 136 carats of diamonds.
The Cluster necklace is a perfect example of Mr. Winston’s design ethos as well as his nickname: “the King of Diamonds.” All-diamond necklaces tend to be simple; think gorgeous solitaire pendants or tennis necklaces. Stunning, certainly, but they all look alike. In the deft hands of Harry Winston’s craftspeople, an all-diamond necklace can become an artistic masterpiece and is instantly recognizable as a Harry Winston jewel.
The holly motif might be most visible in the Cluster earrings and brooch, which were among the first pieces designed in the collection. Archival sketches from the 1950s show an all-diamond brooch crafted from pear-shaped diamonds set at different heights and angles. Other sketches from the archives show earrings mixing pear- and marquise-cut diamonds. Today, the Cluster earrings each feature three pear-shaped and two marquise-cut diamonds. Two large pear-shaped diamonds point inwards towards the wearer’s face, and the other diamonds gracefully frame it. The pointed edges of the diamonds tipped with platinum prongs echo spiky holly leaves.
And, of course, there’s the sophisticated Cluster necklace that Lopez wore in the film. It features 180 marquise, pear-shaped, and round brilliant diamonds. The design alternates two marquise diamonds set at opposing angles with a cluster of one pear-shaped and one round brilliant diamond. The largest diamonds appear in the center of the necklace, and the clusters of diamonds gradually become smaller until they meet in the back, for a total of 48.80 carats of diamonds. The film’s costume designer, Albert Wolsky, paired the necklace with Cluster earrings for even more drama.
Jewelry designs like this will never go out of style, which is one reason why we can’t believe Maid in Manhattan turns 20 today. If Lopez wore these jewels on the red carpet today, they would be just as stylish and glamorous as they were in the film and when Mr. Winston first designed the collection in the 1940s.
Today, the Cluster collection continues to evolve while keeping the central tenets of Mr. Winston’s design philosophy front and center. The house added colored gemstones in 2018 and has introduced new takes on the Cluster motif over the years, including new collections inspired by the Winston Cluster and more delicate designs that are easy to wear every day, not just for glamorous galas and fancy evening affairs.
Within the original collection, there are petite Winston Cluster pendants with five smaller diamonds, weighing approximately 1 carat in total, as well as Winston Cluster take on a tennis bracelet with 20 carats of pear-shaped and round brilliant diamonds. Both are more casual but still stunning and look just as fabulous with jeans and a t-shirt as they would when worn with evening attire.
The Lily Cluster collection is inspired by another natural beauty — the delicate petals of a lily flower — and it uses an open-worked cluster design featuring pavé diamonds. The petals “overlap” in their design in many pieces, including the Lily Cluster pendant. This open design and use of pavé diamonds make the cluster design more wearable every day, and it’s much more affordable, too. The Lily Cluster pendant retails for $7,900.
The idea of clustering and letting diamonds dictate the design also permeates the house’s high-jewelry collections and settings for one-of-a-kind diamonds in the Incredibles by Harry Winston collection.