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Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Kennedy Yanko, Reginald O’Neal, and Cajsa von Zeipel

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Lifestyle

David Webb: The American Jeweler’s Designs Live On

By Stephanie Smith-Strickland

October 10, 2013

Though the iconic jeweler David Webb passed away in 1975, his incredible legacy lives on within the walls of his eponymous Madison avenue shop. Photographs and sketches of Webb’s bejeweled masterpieces are prominently featured on the walls of the stores upper level, and there’s even a small team of archivists employed to watch over the massive volume of designs the master jeweler left behind. The seriousness with which the owners and staff view the task of preserving and translating Webb’s grand visions to the world is tangible in the enormous amount of care that is taken in the presentation of each new collection.

This year’s holiday collection features an assortment of pieces curated to fit the spirit of the season, and reflect the span of Webb’s larger-than-life abilities; all while catering to a varying tier of price points. From the understated and unadorned to the decadent and extravagant, each David Webb piece takes hours of manual labor to complete.

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Among the collection is a deceptively simple brick textured gold bangle that was inspired by the sprawling, urban milieu of New York City. Though the bangle is intentionally subdued, in reality its making employs several complicated techniques only a master craftsmen could hope to successfully achieve.

Though every piece is a study in technical skill, even the most overtly intricate pieces serve a deeper purpose beyond displaying superior craftsmanship or acting as mere bodily adornment. David Webb jewelry fearlessly reflects the spirit and preoccupations of the time in which it was designed. From early, more simplistically styled works, to a penchant for natural themes (the zebra is the company mascot), and the eventual graduation to bold geometry, audacious enamel combinations, and vivid colors, one can see Webb’s intuitive understanding of how to convey a greater story.

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One particularly iconic collection of zodiac-inspired bracelets draws inspiration from the enlightenment and free-thinking ideals of the sixties and seventies. Similarly, a grandiose, chain necklace designed during the tumultuous era of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement reflects the collective occupation of the nation with the revolutionary impacts of both the feminist and minority rights movements.

As an artist deeply entrenched in his surroundings, Webb’s prodigious chain jewelry consciously re-contextualizes the idea of chains as a means of bondage. In his careful hands they rather come to represent the very opposite. This ability to draw inspiration from the rich narratives playing out around him is what truly sets David Webb jewelry apart. In the words of the brand’s current co-owner Mark Emanuel, “There’s a logic to it all. When you spend time really looking at this jewelry you start to see the story; and it’s the story of a generation.”

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The story continues as David Webb celebrates its 65th anniversary. In honor of the landmark, avid collectors have the opportunity to purchase one of 65 limited-edition leather bound, silver gilt David Webb book, entitled “David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler.” Each book (out this month) will come with the company’s zebra mascot brooch which can also be worn as a pendant.

David WebbMark Emmanuel

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