The twinkle of a diamond or salivating intensity of a colorful jelly bean sized cabochon amidst intricate gold work of a master craftsman, often in relation to an animal, are all characteristics of the world renown American jeweler David Webb.
Fine Jewelry in the 1950’s was a booming business as the euphoria post WWII business successes made stylish baubles a common necessity of the well to do. Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Bvlgari were the best of the best when it came to high jewelry and exquisite designs, but these were usually considered dressy, more night time appropriate.
The vibrant Hollywood movie stars and glittering American society women were at the center of the public’s new love of celebrity and fashion, they took a liking to David Webb in the 50’s & 60’s and his new style of jewelry making.
Color Rules!He was a true genius when it came to mixing colors and stones to achieve results one can’t help but be drawn to. This bold use of color certainly captures my lust for color!
Jewelry = The New Pets His animal bracelets are the most well known. His first one was introduced in 1957 and the public demand has not stopped. The animal theme made high jewelry playful and less serious. His pieces were a delight in the daytime, not just saved for black tie evening events. The iconic frog bracelet, first created in 1964 has spawned numerous extensions of the frog in his work. David Webb put the fun in jewelry and fashion magazines such as Vogue featured his work regularly. This commissioned Jaguar mask necklace is carved from one piece of turquoise and attached to amethyst beads already owned but the client. He created a number of decorative tabletop objects such as the carved Lapis Lazuli mythical animal and evening boxes often taking inspiration from nature, Mayan shapes, Chinese or other historic designs.
He worked primarily in gold, more with colored stones than diamonds. Though he did not shy away from glittery embellishment. Carved stone, coral, ivory, enamel work and rock crystal were also featured regularly in his designs. Cabochon stones make a far more dramatic statement than a cut stone, and he loved them.
His pieces were bold and brash, statement jewelry minus the uptight overtones.
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Grace Kelly
- Jackie Kennedy
- Duchess of Windsor
- Estee Lauder
- Barbara Streisand
- Sofia Loren
- Lauren Bacall
- Lucille Ball
- Marlo Thomas
- Diane von Furstenberg
First purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor this Maltese Cross was a popular design, though he had many different versions, all different with different stones and embellishment. We all know what a great jewelry collection she had, as I look at the box of six catalogues sitting in front of me from her auction a few years ago.
David Webb pieces are still hot, in demand on the red carpet and by a new group of young collectors looking for that special piece of important jewelry.
If you would like to see more, The Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach is currently offering a well curated exhibit showcasing some of his best work, January 16 – April 13, 2014. His vintage pieces are sought after by collectors scouring the auctions, a recent Sotheby’s auction featured 15 pieces which achieved investment quality results. Showrooms in New York and Beverly Hills can still furnish you with new David Webb pieces.
There is a gorgeous book, David Webb The Quintessential American Jeweler by Ruth Peltason which is full of history and wonderful pictures if, like me, your budget only allows you to covet.