Fluted rock crystal, brilliant-cut diamonds, 18K white gold, and platinum
[Rock Crystal is] the only white alternative for diamonds… it’s so much less serious than diamonds, and so much more wearable. — David Webb
Rock crystal is a colorless quartz mineral long ago believed to be permanently frozen ice. David Webb first introduced rock crystal jewelry in the winter of 1970. In contrast to the small, carved crystal accents of Art Deco jewels, David Webb put it in the lead role, with big, bold, faceted, and carved pieces of crystal from Brazil.
David Webb rock crystal jewelry is luminous, luxurious, and legendary. The origin story was detailed in an article written in 1970 by Marian Christy for the Boston Globe entitled “Crystal, Not Diamonds, May Be a Girl’s Best Trend.”
Christy writes: “It all started when Webb met Best-Dressed Gloria Vanderbilt Cooper at a Christmas party and, instead of her own Webb jewelry, she was wearing a long 1920 rock crystal necklace discovered in a Greenwich Village antique shop and bought for a song. Gloria and David had quite a conversation about the vulgarity of overly-ostentatious jewels. The next day Webb was on a plane to Sydney, Australia, to spend the holidays with the head of the Liberal Party, Jock Pagan, and instead of planning parties he found himself sketching ideas for a collection of rock crystal jewelry. When he arrived in Sydney he had done 12 drawings which have since been executed into the real thing.”
Repeatedly in the period newspaper articles from the 70s, David Webb’s rock crystal jewelry is referred to as “sporty,” however it can’t be denied that it’s the perfect nighttime look. Stacks of bracelets made of the carved clear stone line up and down women’s wrists, and with an effortless swagger, they are implied as the perfect jewelry to go with either a sweater or a gown. Rock crystal for David Webb was about reinventing a vocabulary of jewelry that would appeal to his clients accustomed to big, bold jewelry. They were getting bang for their buck, and jewelry that would transition from daytime to evening with ease.
Using many of the original carving templates from the archives, David Webb continues to be the dominant force of rock crystal jewelry today. Each year collectors and first time clients discover new pieces. They glimmer and glisten as all diamond jewelry does, but David Webb’s crystal jewelry is more in tune with today’s woman.
Crystal is a favorite on the red carpet, as it goes with nearly any color of gown, and lights up the face. Recently, Helen Mirren has graced both the red carpet and the cover of Elle in rock crystal jewelry. A favorite image from the archive is a Richard Avedon photograph from Vogue 1972 of Cher’s empowering fist with long red fingernails wearing a rock crystal ring and bracelet. Lauren Hutton sports a fluted rock crystal bracelet in another Richard Avedon image from Vogue 1971.
David Webb’s rock crystal pieces are fluted, carved, cross-hatched, or smooth and usually set with brilliant-cut diamonds. They light up a face and a room. Visit the David Webb Twilight collection for more.