A Bold and Colorful Statement

David Webb's Totem Designs

David Webb designed his popular ‘Totem’ pendants in the 1970s as a step away from both his more formal diamond and yellow gold designs and his enamel animals. With this collection he was able to bring something contemporary and abstract to his growing list of important collectors. As women were stepping outside of the home, and self-expression and boundaries were being pushed, Webb too pushed his medium.

Cher, wearing a David Webb Totem pendant, photographed by Richard Avendon for Vogue, 1974.

The idea of adding and stacking colorful gems inspired the totem collection and allowed David Webb to explore color and geometric form in a myriad of combinations. The totems may be worn on a chain or gold collar and they pair well with an informal white shirt or a formal black dress. Bold and colorful statement pieces, David Webb's totems have been worn by celebrities, royalty and unforgettable women across the globe. 

David Webb

Born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1925, David Webb got his start as an apprentice in his uncle’s silver shop prior to moving to New York, where he worked repairing jewelry in Greenwich Village. A charming and talented young man, the social elite were enamored by him and, with the backing of wealthy patron Antoinette Quilleret, he eventually opened his own shop in 1945. He swiftly became successful enough to buy out Quilleret in 1948 and established David Webb, Inc. in 1948.

Webb was a self-taught jewelry designer and developed his unique style through years of studying ancient jewels from Greece, Mesopotamia, and Central and South America, as well as traditional jewelry styles from China and India. These sources, coupled with the contemporary trends emerging in American and European jewelry—especially the figural and natural themes of industry titan Cartier and their creative director Jeanne Toussaint—led Webb to develop his own visionary motifs that propelled his company to immense success.

His bold, colorful designs could be seen on some of the most influential jewelry collectors of the 20th century, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Diana Vreeland, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ava Gardner. Webb’s animal-themed jewels were especially popular: the Duke of Windsor purchased an enameled frog bangle for his wife in 1964, and Diana Vreeland was particularly fond of her dramatic and bold zebra bangle. Tragically, Webb’s life was cut short by pancreatic cancer at 50 years old. Despite such a monumental loss, the company continued and today remains one of the most important jewelry firms in the world, producing imaginative and bold jewels from the workshop above Webb’s flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York.

Auction Results David Webb