David Webb New York
David Webb New York is an American luxury jewelry house headquartered in New York City, with a second location in Beverly Hills. The brand is best known for its playful animals, often depicted in enamel; textured and hammered gold; and the combination of opaque and translucent gems. Founded by jeweler David Webb in 1948, the company’s present-day collection is inspired by designs created by Webb during his lifetime, including reissues of original pieces.
Born in 1925 in Asheville, North Carolina, David Webb learned jewelry-making from his uncle, a local jeweler, and worked with him on metalsmithing souvenir ashtrays and other small objects. In 1942, he moved to New York City to create his own jewelry.
Soon after, he partnered with Antoinette Quilleret, who provided financial backing for his jewelry, and in 1948, David Webb Inc. opened at 2 West 46th Street. The designer began to sell jewelry through Bergdorf Goodman and others. In 1950, David Webb’s jewelry was featured on the cover of Vogue.
In the 1960s, David Webb became known for his expertise in enameling, texturing and hammering gold, and bold color combinations with distinctive gemstones. Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned him to create jeweled Gifts of State for guests visiting the White House.
In 1964, he won a Coty American Fashion Critics' Award. At the awards, a color film created by Milton Greene and Joe Eula was projected, depicting a walk in the woods with David Webb’s zebras, horses, frogs, and giraffes in enamel, diamonds, and gemstones.
Webb’s Manhattan boutique became a go-to destination for American and international socialites and actresses, as well as big names in the fashion world. While at Harper’s Bazaar, editor Diana Vreeland owned a David Webb zebra bracelet. When Vreeland was at Vogue, photographer Irving Penn shot a graphic black and white enameled David Webb zebra ring for the cover of the publication.
In December of 1975, David Webb died at age 50 from pancreatic cancer.
The Silberstein Era
After ebb’s death, the company was owned by his business partner Nina Silberstein and her family until 2009. During this period, the company continued to expand, opening boutiques in Houston and Kuwait in addition to its New York and Los Angeles stores.
The company was purchased in 2009 by Mark Emanuel, Robert Sadian and Sima Ghadamian, who committed to the complete rehabilitation of the brand and its extensive archives.
In 2011 the owners moved the company to 942 Madison Avenue, which includes its flagship retail store, its workshop, its archives of 50,000 drawings and original molds, and its corporate offices. The company moved its Beverly Hills location from Brighton Way to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in 2015.
Since opening the flagship workshop and retailer in 1948, David Webb jewelry has been made in-house. Webb’s first workshop was on Jeweler's Row, 47th Street; by the 1960s, David Webb employed over two hundred jewelers, in locations on 57th Street and elsewhere. Presently, the workshop is above the New York flagship boutique on Madison Avenue. The workshop is now filled with craftsmen from 2nd and 3rd generation jewelers. The current foreman of the workshop has been at David Webb since 1979, and the workshop’s polisher joined the company in 1965.
David Webb is best known for its playful animals, ranging from the iconic Zebra Bracelet, to frogs, lions, and tigers, to chimeras and zodiac symbols. The designs are distinguished by its use of rock crystal, jade, Maltese crosses, and geometric patterned enamel. David Webb saw his designs as work of art. In 1963, he wrote an article for the New York Herald Tribune entitled, “Why Not Hang Gems?” He wrote, “Jewels, though more personal than paintings, should be treated as great works of art.”
Webb often found inspiration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, art galleries, and antique shops. His personal reference library was filled with books on Chinese jade, Egyptian art, Peruvian art, French textiles, the flowering trees of the Mediterranean. English Victorian jewelry, as well as children’s books on wild animals and how to draw horses.
In 2014, a retrospective exhibition was mounted at Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach.
In 2017, Hillwood Museum’s exhibition, Spectacular: Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection, featured David Webb.
The Newport Restoration Foundation opened its 2018 season in Rough Point with Designing for Doris: David Webb Jewelry and Newport’s Architectural Gems.
A David Webb bracelet is featured in Past is Present: Revival Jewelry in the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Marketing and Publicity
A book about the David Webb brand, David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler, by Ruth Peltason, was published by Assouline in 2013. The company was featured on CBS Sunday Morning in 2014.
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