Legendary jewelry designer David Yurman, much like his eponymous brand, is like no other. He began his career as a sculptor, revolutionizing jewelry design during the 80s in New York City. Working alongside his wife Sybil, who is a painter by profession, Yurman caught the attention of jewelry connoisseurs worldwide by creating pieces that were exquisite yet very easy to wear – an accomplishment that only a handful of jewelers have managed to date.
The husband-and-wife duo’s creations – which symbolize their love, artistic talent, and love for New York – are now iconic staples of the brand and recognized globally. Their son Evan is also a leading figure at the company as of late, giving David Yurman pieces a fresh twist while maintaining the brand’s elite heritage.
During the brand’s launch at Bloomingdale’s-Dubai, Savoir Flair had a chance to sit down with David Yurman himself and pick his brain on everything from design and heroes to investing in jewelry. Find his never-before-heard anecdotes in the gallery below.
“I think jewelry is very universal. Other than minor variations, it’s not so particular to a place – there might be a specific tone of gold used or differences in diamond grading, for example. I just make my style of jewelry, and then we tweak for certain regions.
China loves red, while Japan favors big rings. The Spanish and Arabic populations like color – they aren’t afraid of making a statement. When I think of Middle Eastern jewelry, I don’t think of it as regional. I feel it has universal appeal. For example, Mouawad’s early designs carried a lot of personality.”
“I feel that we, as a brand, brought something to luxury that didn’t exist before, which is kind of relaxed – versatile pieces that you’d wear every day and from day to night. We call it the ‘three Bs’ as you can wear our jewelry in the boardroom, at the baseball game, and to the beach. Our pieces are contemporary.”
“The company rapidly grew because we were doing something that resonated. When we first made jewelry and I took it on the road, visiting fairs and jewelry craft houses, I was looking carefully at the customer who was buying it.
The reaction was generally, ‘I don’t really like jewelry, but I like this.’ So I found myself wondering – how big could a customer base of women who didn’t like jewelry be? Maybe this is a huge oil field, I thought [laughs].”
“My favorite design is probably the original ‘Cable’ bracelet from 1984. It centered us. It is open-ended with gemmed ends, and we still sell it today. A few years ago, my son Evan made the exact same piece in aluminum and without gems, in nine different colors, to mark the bracelet’s 25th anniversary. It was available for a very friendly price in our stores and online, and all 3,000 pieces sold out in less than a month.
At first, I had doubts about it. Our aim is always to elevate the brand, and then he comes up with the idea of an aluminum, limited-edition collection – things of this sort disturb the market. He made it easy for people to access the aluminum version, but then recreated the same design entirely with diamonds.
Every single millimeter was pure pavé, and beautifully done. It was done with black, white, and yellow diamonds. Evan basically took the ‘Cable’ design at its very basic and had fun with it.”
“When I think of investment pieces in terms of jewelry, I think the real investment is falling in love with it, especially when it’s self-purchase. If it’s a gift, it makes your relationship with the person better – and that’s the investment. You invest in the romance of it, you invest in the design. We are very fair in terms of pricing. We don’t want the everyday piece to be expensive because we want to make it easy to buy.”
“I don’t collaborate with anyone other than Sybil and Evan, the two people whose voices I thoroughly understand… and they understand mine. I also don’t have heroes or people that I idolize, but have a lot of respect for jewelers like Stefan Hemmerle, who has a great understanding of jewelry. He is purer than I am; he does 200 pieces a year, while I do around 700,000 that get to the market. I’m more of a populist.
In terms of people who inspire me – apprenticing with Jacques Lipchitz inspired me in many ways, particularly his work ethic. He was also one of the sculptors that I admired. I appreciate that he practised a lot of different styles, from Cubist to Impressionist. His strongest pieces have stuck with me; they mean something. I think Lipchitz taught me the most about having a point of view, and truly knowing what it is.”
“A lot of our designs feature ‘X’s, which all started out with some of Sybil’s paintings. They were actually hash mocks. If you look at her paintings, they look like slashes… lines, a form that just came about. She then carried it forward into a jewelry series of sorts, which we now slave over. She’ll dictate the curves and heights, I’ll tweak, and then we find ourselves back at square one. Iterations really try our marriage [laughs].”