It's Jewelry Month: David Webb

BY Anum Bashir

With many of us still high on the glitz and pageantry that was the royal wedding, there’s no better way to usher Jewelry Month along than to shine a spotlight on some of the finest makers of jewelry out there, and whose handcrafted pieces are fit only for royalty. David Webb is a name that has become synonymous with bold craftsmanship and design. The NYC based brand, rich in its traditions was founded by David Webb himself in 1948, and counted (amongst a few) iconic celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Barbara Streisand, and Diana Vreeland as their loyal clients. Today, Mark Emanuel and Robert Sadian jointly own the revered house. I got to sit down with Mark to learn a little bit about him, and a lot about David Webb.

AB: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

ME: I was born in Pleasantville, New York, but I spent my childhood in Rome, Italy. I was 14 years old when I moved back the United States.

AB: Tell us a little bit about your educational background?

ME: I attended Tufts University in Boston and studied Biology and Psychology.

AB: Share with us your earliest/ fondest jewelry related memories and influences.

ME: After graduating from college, I found myself at a crossroads of continuing in the sciences and going to medical school or becoming an artist. Art was a tradition in my family, but seeing how tough the life of the artist can be, I wanted to pursue a path where I could be independent and make a living. My first job in jewelry was working as a stock boy for a jewelry store in Beverly Hills when I was 18. From the moment I first picked up the loupe, I was inspired.

AB: Tell us a little bit about why you set out to take over David Webb? How has the brand changed/ evolved since you took over?

ME: In the industry, David Webb has always been spoken of with hushed reverence. When the opportunity to consider purchasing David Webb arose, it was a dream come true and...a leap of faith. In the past 8 years since Robert Sadian and I acquired the company, we have overseen the growth of our archives, the success of exciting campaigns with Carine Roitfeld and Inez & Vinoodh, and the unearthing of historical collections like Nail and our most recent relaunch, Motif. Every time I walk into our workshop, I am reminded of the great responsibility to preserve and honor the legacy of this true design master, and with every piece created in our workshop we are adding to jewelry history.

AB: As a heritage brand, David Webb is revered for its incredibly bold designs that are undoubtedly timeless. Take us inside the design process. What percentage of it is tapping into the archives vs. what you're designing today?

ME: “Tapping into the archives” isn’t really how I’d describe it. The archives – more than 40,000 of David Webb’s original design concepts, the drawings, molds, and collaborations, and even the editorial coverage the brand has received over the years – provide constant inspiration for the House today. At the same time, many of our craftsmen are family members of those who worked for David Webb himself; in our design process, some of them use the very same tools and techniques from David Webb’s day, while others work with cutting edge technologies. Being part of that process is an inspiration of its own.

AB: Do you have in-house designers at DW?

ME: In my role as co-owner of David Webb, I also serve unofficially as Creative Director. I oversee our workshop of 25 master artisans and choose which designs go into production and advise on small design tweaks where necessary. In the great tradition of David Webb, we also work with clients to create custom pieces. In that process we have a small highly-skilled team of designers to help bring David Webb’s vision to life.

AB: What is the toughest part about keeping the brand fresh and relevant for today's client/ patron?

ME: Even in David Webb’s day, he was constantly evolving and pushing his designs. When Jacqueline Kennedy, Gloria Vanderbilt and Elizabeth Taylor came to him and said ‘David, your animal jewelry is great,’ it encouraged him to move from these floral 1950s statements to Kingdom. And then social revolution came—the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and women seek equality in the workplace. They were partying at night as well. You had Studio 54. David Webb responded to that and made these big, bold colorful statements.

Throughout his career, David Webb developed a great and versatile design vocabulary that is not only timeless but that speaks to the wants of women then and now. We are lucky in that we are not confined within a narrow design vision because David Webb himself continually evolved, and we have his vast and varied archive from which to draw.

AB: How are you tapping into Millennials? Is that something the brand has thought about, or even discussed considering you already have a very strong (possibly older) client base?

ME: We are always thinking about new and different ways to reach and excite future David Webb collectors while staying true to the David Webb DNA. One of the ways we have found to be most successful is through our Instagram, @davidwebbjewels. Not only does @davidwebbjewels allow us to connect to a younger digital-savvy audience but also to our friends and followers around the world.

Through the use of Instagram, we have also been able to highlight some of our more everyday collections. Most recently, we relaunched Motif, a collection originally designed by David Webb in the 1970s. It’s designed in a relatively smaller scale than the iconic David Webb style, but uses all of those wonderful talents and techniques like enameling and the use of platinum and diamonds along with gold. It’s very easy to wear, and since its relaunch last Fall, it has already resonated with younger audience that loves David Webb but wants a more understated everyday look.

AB: Who do you design for? Who is the David Webb girl/ woman?

ME: David Webb loved women who weren’t afraid to take risks. David Webb jewelry with its bold sense of color, scale and original sense of design caters to the global woman who exudes self- confidence and elegance.

AB: Muses of the brand? Can you take us inside your archives to share some of the most prolific designs/ clients?

ME: We count tastemakers including Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Gloria Vanderbilt, Doris Duke and Diana Vreeland as David Webb women. In the archives we have many of the David Webb’s original sketches of the pieces he designed for these powerful women often while sitting directly across from them.

AB: The best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

ME: My father told me ‘Mark, in this life you never own anything. At best, you responsibly lease it.’ And those words have been my approach in my stewardship of David Webb. Robert and I feel very fortunate to be the temporary caretakers of this incredible American heritage brand.

AB: If there's one place in the world you could be, where would it be?

ME: I am content with where I am. There is much to be said about living in the here and now.

Visit David Webb here if you're looking to further satiate your eyeballs.

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