David Webb Jewelry
Jackie Kennedy compared him to Cellini, the Duchess of Windsor said he was today’s Fabergé, and the New Yorker described him as “the creative meteor about town.” Born in Asheville, North Carolina, David Webb was the go-to jeweler for society swans and Hollywood stars during the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. His signature animal bracelets and richly colored assortment of jewelry, all set in the warmth of his favorite yellow gold, has dressed stylish women over the decades, including Nan Kempner, Diana Vreeland, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Tory Burch, Brooke Astor, Gloria Vanderbilt, Jennifer Garner, Doris Duke, Mrs. Paul Mellon, Evelyn Lauder, Jennifer Lawrence, and Selma Hayek.
David Webb’s design voice was an amalgam of influences, from the South of his boyhood to his explorations of faraway lands and ancient cultures. He was effortlessly self-styled, a template for the jewelry he created. He’s known best for his animal bracelets, always more declarative than cute. He excelled in his use of yellow gold, saying “the more barbaric the better.” Color is declarative and bold. Form was essential, the through line that defines his work. David Webb embraced art deco and heraldic forms, and the beauty of enamel jewelry. His most elegant jewelry makes big pearls sexy and turns a spotlight on rock crystal accented with white diamonds. Important diamond jewelry is an unexpected though stunning entry in his work.
David Webb opened for business in 1948, in a small walk-up with just a few employees around the corner from New York’s Diamond District. By 1950, when he was just twenty-five, he had reached his first fashion summit: the cover of Vogue magazine. Success was already within his grasp. Even in those early days, David Webb was the creative visionary behind every piece of jewelry made in his workshop, which produced bold and beautifully made jewelry under his watchful eye. The thousands of sketches and hand-colored renderings he left behind remain the foundation of the company, and continue to direct the efforts of the David Webb craftsmen and women.
Webb’s distinctive fine jewelry has always looked its best on the stylishly dressed, making it perfectly suited to the world of fashion. The subliminal motto about his jewelry, always modern, is what gives him ongoing fashion currency. David Webb excelled at jewelry with an idiomatically American sensibility, having an “anything goes” optimism. It’s forthright, fresh, elegant, modern, stylish, and diverse, all of it made in a workshop on the premises since the company began in 1948. This is indeed fine jewelry made in America. That’s high praise and a rare achievement.
Betteridge is an authorized David Webb jeweler in Greenwich.