David Webb | King of the Jungle
Our May 21 online auction of Jewelry & Watches features a number of pieces by important American jeweler, David Webb. Recognized for his bold and eccentric designs, Webb is best known for his influential and whimsical Animal Kingdom collection. Learn more about this iconic collection below.
David Webb’s distinct designs have been ingrained into American culture, in large part due to the popularization of their whimsical, yet architectural Zebra bracelet. Designed in 1957, the Makara Bracelet, later renamed after its purchaser, Elizabeth Taylor, was the first zoomorphic design of what ultimately formed Webb’s Kingdom. Taylor, an actress, fashion icon and patron of David Webb’s designs, commissioned a series of lion head jewels and eventually purchased the Zebra Bracelet, designed in 1963.
The artfully black and white enameled Zebra Bracelet, set with circular-cut diamonds and ruby cabochons, worn by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Vogue editor Dianne Vreeland, among others, soon became a feature piece in major publications of the 1960s. The bold design was photographed by Irving Penn for Vogue’s September issue in 1964. That same year, the Zebra Bracelet was featured among other enameled critters in Life Magazine’s article, “Pack of Jeweled Animals”.
Adored for its eccentric but architectural design, synonymous with Webb’s work, the Zebra bracelet prompted a jungle of enameled animals including elephants, tigers, monkeys, frogs and more. These zoomorphic designs reached well beyond the 1960s, moving into the 1970s with David Webb’s Zodiac series. Generations of increasingly elaborate enamel, organic gemstone carved and gemstone set beasts ultimately formed Webb’s Kingdom collection.
This technical zebra design, built from over two dozen components, requires over thirty hours of work to produce. Since its creation in 1963 with inspiration from Felix Sutton’s children’s book, The Big Book of Wild Animals, the bracelet remains in production. The beloved design can be seen reflected in David Webb’s logo today.
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