“Bold”, “imaginative “, “colorful” and “very well made” are just a few of the ways in which jewelry expert and Beladora founder Russell Fogarty refers to the work of the late designer David Webb.
Decidedly direct terms for what is an exuberant body of work designed by Webb in a relatively short amount of time, starting with the launch of his eponymous company in 1948 until his death in 1975, a mere 27 years.
Despite the fact that Webb himself was alive for what can now be counted as just the beginning of his business, he created a lasting legacy built on creatively designed, beautifully crafted and wonderfully imaginative jewelry.
Webb’s singular vision — his pieces are instantly recognizable — and the fact that forty years after his death the company was reinvigorated by new ownership under jewelry veterans Mark Emanuel and Robert Sadian who use the original designs and the same manufacturing techniques, is at the heart of why David Webb jewelry has remained so popular and valuable today, says Fogarty.
From the Beladora Archives: David Webb Enamel Frog Bracelet in 18K
Webb jewelry was the height of fashion in the ’60s and ’70s when his big, chunky animal bangles were created. “The animal motifs, in particular tigers, zebras, frogs, giraffes, lions and leopards crafted in colorful enamel, diamonds, gemstones, and 18K yellow gold, are among the most iconic Webb pieces.”
But aside from the strikingly whimsical designs, just what is it about Webb that continues to make it as in demand as it was several decades ago?
“David Webb pieces retain strong value because the market isn’t saturated with the brand. David Webb has only one primary location on Madison Avenue in New York and a second boutique in Beverly Hills. If you’re going to buy a new piece of Webb today, those are the only two locations to shop. Compare that to the nearly 300 stores that Tiffany currently operates.
From the Beladora Archives: David Webb Zebra Bangle Bracelet in 18K and Platinum
Vintage Webb is even more sought after. Fogarty adds that it’s rare for a major auction to take place without several vintage David Webb pieces on offer. Several major collections came on the market last year, says Fogarty. “For instance, a vintage zebra bangle, depending on whether it is single – headed or double – headed, and in good condition, can sell for plus or minus $30,000-$40,000.”
Celebrities seem to love Webb. Bold face names from Gwyneth Paltrow to Rachel Zoe wear his animal motif bangles, vintage door knocker earrings and large scale black and white, art deco – inspired cocktail rings made with a bold twist.
“It’s glamorous, it’s fun and it’s so distinctive that when you see an extravagant black and white enamel zebra bangle or a whimsical and chic green enamel and gold frog bracelet or brooch, it’s got to be Webb. It’s just instantly recognizable on the red carpet”, says Fogarty. “He was so clever with enamel, ingenious with crystal, and he used big colorful stones like azurmalachite and amethyst in striking combinations with yellow gold.”
Adoration for Webb’s pieces has proven strong for Beladora and the site consistently acquires and sells various pieces from the brand.
“We love his designs and we sell quite a bit,” says Fogarty of David Webb jewelry. We are always on the lookout to buy the vintage pieces. We currently have about 40, including several tiger, leopard and monkey brooches as well as door knocker earrings and crystal and enamel rings. Over the years we’ve sold most of the motifs that have come on the market and we will continue to do so.
From bold color and creative vision to striking motifs and excellent craftsmanship, Fogarty sums up what could be the singular reason David Webb still wows today, “Webb was really in a class of his own.” He says, “I don’t think he copied anyone.”