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David Webb: America’s Quintessential Jeweler

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David Webb is America’s quintessential jeweler . . . and a new, glorious book celebrating the jeweler captures his legacy and importance today.  Author Ruth Peltason unveils Webb’s legacy with 5th/58th.

In the first couple of years in business, back in the late 1940s, David Webb was one of those well-known “secrets” available only to the Ladies Who Lunch crowd. Cosseted in their chauffeured limousines, women would be driven to an unmarked address in the Diamond District, climb three flights of stairs, make a purchase, and return to their cars for the climb back to the safety of their Upper East Side homes. All that changed when in 1950 Vogue magazine featured a pair of Webb’s earrings on the cover of their October magazine, shot by the great Horst. It was a triumph, a coup, and a line in the sand: David Webb, at the young age of twenty-five, had arrived.

The fashion press loved the Southerner who had natural charm, stealth wit, and who managed to convince the ladies that he loved each of them the most. He also had that inexpressible “something”—a natural feel for what was fashionable and what would also endure, earning him the sobriquet, “always modern.” Webb rings were about color and size, his gold was as hammered as jewelry made by the ancient Greeks, and he could spin rock crystal into jewels nearly dripping with morning dew. Coral was a material he adored, and he also never shied away from taking diamonds and designing brilliantly patterned bracelets and earrings with them. He was indeed the right man at the right place at the right time. His clients included Elizabeth Taylor (who commissioned jewelry from him), Doris Duke, Diana Vreeland (she also featured him in both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue), Jackie Kennedy, Marisa Berenson, Barbra Streisand, Brooke Astor, Estee Lauder, and generations of Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. The list is first class all the way, and seemingly endless. In all, he was what Eugenia Sheppard, the fashion journalist of the 1960s and 70s said, “David Webb is the most fashion-conscious of the jewelers.”

David Webb’s great legacy began in 1948 when he started making jewelry in his own workshop. Sixty-five years later and that is still the case. This is indeed jewelry made in America, with telltale American sensibility: optimism, openness to new ideas, and a unique way of looking at the past in order to go forward. The brilliant colors, grand sense of scale, size, and marvelous ability to make any piece of jewelry feel fresh are among the hallmarks of David Webb jewelry. From the company’s start, the David Webb customer has been a woman of high style and independence. And the new book on the jeweler places David Webb squarely in the center of the great glory years of American jewelry design in the twentieth century.

David Webb, The Quintessential American Jeweler is available on the Seventh Floor. Call 212 872 2758 for more details.