The Early Years
David Webb, an American jeweler, was born in 1925 in Asheville, North Carolina. When he was 9 years old he was introduced to metalworking at a community WPA project (Work Progress Administration circa 1935) and discovered that he had natural ability in the craft. His uncle who was a metalsmith took David in as an apprentice.
When he was 17 years old he moved to New York City with hopes of becoming involved in the jewelry industry. He began working in the diamond district, however, he shortly realized that although he enjoyed working in jewelry shops his greatest desire was to design and produce pieces of his own.
A Company is Born
In 1948, at the age of 23, he was able to begin his own business in a store in New York City. A Paris-born socialite, Antoinette Quilleret, offered the financial backing that made this venture possible. David Webb carefully vetted and hired 3 fine craftsman and the 4 of them began jewelry production. Their endeavors would become legendary as they created a line of jewelry that was highly regaled in Hollywood and within circles of wealthy people.
Within 2 years, Vogue magazine presented a feature article about the David Webb store complete with a phenomenal photograph for the cover. Included in the article was information about where Mr. Webb gained inspiration for his work. He made weekly visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he focused on historical designs including Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, pre-Columbian, Indian and Chinese. These themes became incorporated into his pieces and dazzled his followers. During his lifetime he designed over 40,000 items that the current David Webb team continues to use when creating jewelry.
David Webb is most often associated with jewelry pieces that are undoubtedly American - bold, brazen and somewhat brash in a fashionable way. Inspired by an Indian sea monster, the Taylor Makara bracelet featured cabochon emeralds, circular cut diamonds, platinum and gold. It was the first animal bracelet he made and was purchased by Elizabeth Taylor. He also produced a bracelet of carved amethyst with details of a horse wearing a headpiece adorned with emeralds, yellow gold and diamonds. It had weight, presence and could not possibly be overlooked!
Adored by Hollywood
Elizabeth Taylor commissioned an eloquent and mesmerizing lion bracelet and necklace. It was comprised of double strand pearls worn close to the neck and featured oversized lion heads with emeralds, diamonds and yellow gold. The heads were the clasp and were set to the front of the necklace. The bracelet was equally gorgeous. When well-known Hollywood personalities began wearing David Webb's jewelry he knew he had been discovered. Other purveyors of David Webb jewels were Jacqueline Kenned Onassis, Barbara Streisand, Helen Mirren, Cher, Beyonce, Cameron Diaz, Amy Adams, Rihanna, Eva Mendez and numerous other celebrities. David Webb jewels continue to grace the red carpet at film and music events. Bracelets have even been noticed at other celebrity galas including those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Because David Webb jewelry was a sensation with Hollywood, he is the only known jeweler to have been mentioned in film credits since leading ladies wore his pieces. These movies include: "Madam X" starring Lana Turner, "Thrill of it All" starring Doris Day and "Backstreet" starring Susan Hayward. It is doubtful that any greater compliment could be made!
A Lasting Impact
David Webb jewelry is fascinating, imaginative and richly decorative and rightly earned a permanent place in fashion history. Although Mr. Webb passed away in 1975, the creative flare of his pieces continue to be available through the boutiques that are currently in New York City and Beverly Hills, California.