Smithsonian sparkleBig diamonds belong in museums. History...


Smithsonian sparkle

Big diamonds belong in museums. History has shown that egg-sized famous stones eventually bring nothing but misery to the lives of those who own them. So the prestigious jewelry firm of Harry Winston, which has brokered the sale of the world's rarest gems to the world's most famous personages, is generously giving away some of these legendary baubles to a museum where they can be seen and admired by all -- without risk. Last month, Ronald Winston, son of the company's namesake, dedicated the new Harry Winston Gallery at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

The famous 45.52 carat Hope Diamond remains the centerpiece of the gallery collection. Its travels through time are fraught with tragedy. The stone was first recorded in 1642 in India by a diamond merchant who bought it and met his death when he was eaten by wild dogs. It eventually found its way to the coffers of Louis XIV who died of gangrene, then later to Queen Marie Antoinette who lost her head. It bounced around inheritances of British peers who were unsuccessful in life and holding on to it.

The diamond came to America and was bought by Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McClean in spite of the legend of the curse. Her son was killed, her husband went mad and her daughter died of a pill overdose. Harry Winston bought it from her estate and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.

With fall's bright weather, a day trip to the museum sounds ideal, even if it's only to gloat in the security that we'll never own gems large enough to carry a curse.

Boys in the back room

Devotees of the Loehmann's shopping experience are familiar with the sorry bunch of fellas usually found sitting in the chairs at the front of the store. They sigh, they grumble, they read the sports pages front to back, patiently waiting for their women to find a designer bargain.

That's all changing. Starting Wednesday, men will be able to shop. Loehmann's is opening men's departments for the first time in the store's 75-year history. To lure guys into this former women's domain, the stores will be offering door prizes, discounts and contests.

Men, however, will not be initiated into the fashion bonding and style chatter that is common to group dressing rooms at Loehmann's. They'll have to make fashion decisions in their own cubicles.

Charmed life

Silver is the jewelry metal of the moment with designs running to sculptural and weighty looks. Cuffs are especially fashionable now, and those suggestive of talismans and Gothic finishes are sought after. Florida jeweler Ann Allen engraves cuffs with astral maps and sets them with semi-precious cabochon stones. They are inscribed with empowering messages. Her work can be found at Boomerang Words & Gifts in Padonia Village Shopping center.

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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