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DAVID WEBB’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

June 27, 2017

Joseph DuMouchelle’s June 21st auction featured Lot 53, a bold yellow gold and emerald frog cuff from American midcentury jewelry designer David Webb. The North Carolina-born jeweler, who operated his boutique on Madison Avenue from the 1940s until his death in 1975, was well known for his bejeweled animal kingdom:  Monkeys beamed with cabochon ruby eyes, fish were outfitted with textured gold scales and Webb’s black-and-white enameled zebra rings and bracelets became his signature piece.

Of course, Webb is not the only jewelry designer inspired by animals. Cartier has its sleek panther, Bulgari its coiled serpent, JAR its exquisite renditions of butterflies and dragonflies. But Webb had his own style of designing creatures and often looked to illustrated children’s books for inspiration. The influence is clear in the whimsy of the animals, from the gentleness of an enamel elephant sitting on top of a bangle to the timid look of a panther cub sitting on top a branch or the mischievous grin of a monkey in brooch form.

While Webb’s zebras are iconic, the designer’s frogs are just as prized‑and can be found in many different iterations, from green enameled and spotted with yellow-gold dots or carved in lapis lazuli. There are even a few oversized frog sculptures, fat and hefty in yellow gold and somewhat sinister looking with its carved emerald and diamond pave eyes.

But Lot 53, the yellow gold hinged cuff features a realistic looking frog that would look very much alive if it were not done in its hefty gold and cabochon emerald eyes.  

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