Return of the Million-Dollar Hairdo, Now Worth Half a Billion

By Harold Leighton
Harold Leighton
Harold Leighton
December 11, 2013 Updated: December 11, 2013

The original “million-dollar hairdo”—an ornate coiffure adorned with $1 million in Graff Jewels—was created in December 1969 by hairdresser Harold Leighton. The campaign featuring the photograph of the hairdo catapulted Graff Diamonds into the world of internationally recognized luxury brands. To celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary, Laurence Graff recreated the most expensive hairdo ever—with interest. The 2013 “Hair & Jewel” coif is worth half a billion dollars. The photo of the spectacular piece was recently unveiled in London.

— ed.

Harold Leighton, the original creator of “Hair & Jewel,” shares some memories:

By 1970 I was in full flight as a hairdresser in central London, as creative director at Harrods Beauty Salon Knightsbridge.

At this time, my days were spent at Vogue, Harpers, Nova, and Vanity Fair working with top photographers like David Bailey, Helmut Newton, Bert Stern, Norman Parkinson, Barry Lategan. David Montgomery, and Clive Arrowsmith to name a few.

I had just started my creative job at Harrods “The best departmental store in the world.” The beauty salon was owned and run by the large American corporation Seligman and Latz, which ran over a 1,000 salons around the world.

My job at Harrods was to create stories and pictures for the PR department. My photography shoots were almost daily, and my show work for L’Oreal, Wella, Schwartzkopf and Clairol kept me busy on many weekends. When I had free time I was planning other photo shoots or going to Paris with Vidal to see the big fashion shows.

My public relations woman was a young cockney girl that handled my wife Maxine at her French boutique Maxine Leighton on Conduit Street just off Bond Street in London. Caroline Neville played an important part in my life as my life long PR woman. Her firm, Caroline Neville Associates was the best PR agency then and still is. She has also been UK president of the international organization Cosmetic Executive Women, the best women’s organization in beauty and fashion, since 1996.

One of Caroline’s clients was a young man named Laurence Graff who was fast becoming one of the top Jewelers in London. So we created “The Million Dollar Hair Do.” I remember Caroline mentioning with excitement that she had the photograph and story placed in The Evening Standard—the rest is history!

The jewels used for the recreation include the following:

* Graff “Sweethearts” earrings featuring 51.53-carat and 50.76-carat D color Flawless type IIA heart shape diamonds;

* A selection of jewelry crafted from the 550ct Letšeng Star, the 14th largest white rough diamond ever discovered;

* A 10.47-carat fancy vivid blue internally flawless briolette diamond pendant;

* A 52.73-carat fancy vivid yellow emerald cut diamond ring; and

* A 6.51-carat fancy intense pink internally flawless oval cut diamond ring.

Above is Graff Diamond’s promotional video about the creation of the half-billion dollar hairdo.