Cabochon rubies, brilliant-cut diamonds, blue and white enamel, 18K gold, and platinum.
With a sense of humor, a playful, bold approach to design, and an affinity for bright colors, David Webb wasn’t afraid to monkey around a little — or a lot, in the case of his iconic monkey pieces. The Gypsy Monkey Brooch was a standout among Webb’s barrel of monkeys — the ultimate playful expression, bringing a smile and a wink to both wearer and viewer. Not one to rest on his laurels, on the heels of winning the 1964 Coty American Fashion Critics’ award, he was already planning his next collection, Renaissance-inspired baroque pearl animal brooches that hit the market in 1965.
The brooches were an instant hit. Fashion writer Eugenia Sheppard wrote about these one-of-a-kind treasures in her article for the New York Herald Tribune, “Pearl with a Belly Button” and quoted David Webb:
Monkeys are a great cult, like frogs and snakes. – David Webb
While David Webb’s wild cats purred off the pages and leapt onto the wrists and shoulders of New York society and the zebra bracelet earned its stripes as the company logo, the Gypsy Monkey Brooch hardly had to fight for attention. The 18K gold brooch in green and white enamel, set with cabochon ruby eyes and adorned with its very own gold hoop earrings and diamond bracelet, quickly garnered the attention of some of America’s most successful women.
David Webb monkeys don’t stop with the brooch. The irreverent monkey repertoire includes the Hugging Monkey ring of sculpted 18K gold and cabochon emerald eyes, a carved coral, emerald, and diamond Monkey bracelet where the monkey catches his own tail, and a Repoussé Monkey cuff with two monkeys holding hands.
Objects for the home feature the curious creatures as well. His monkey clock graced a 1967 Town & Country spread, and Webb also designed a monkey box and a pair of rock crystal obelisks with golden monkeys climbing the smooth translucent surface.
These precious objects now reside in the company’s Archival collection and come out for exhibitions and special occasions — but the brooch, luckily, is available to be worn by women who like a little surprise and delight alongside their dazzle and shine.