The Elizabeth Taylor Double-Headed Lion Necklace (1965), along with a matching bracelet, was commissioned by the actress. It featured a clasp made with cabochon and circular-cut emeralds, circular-cut diamonds, gold and platinum, joined to two strands of cultured pearls.
The dazzling creations of David Webb (1925-1975) are bold, adventurous, and decadent -- and not for the faint of heart. His extravagant and exotic jewelry has been worn by the rich and famous for more than six decades, from Jacqueline Kennedy and Estee Lauder, to Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner and Beyonce.
The jewelry designer's work is the subject of an exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Fla.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
David WebbDavid Webb was a self-taught jeweler who opened his first store in New York City in 1948. Among his clients was the Duchess of Windsor, who referred to Webb as a new Faberge.
Webb's main period was the mid-1960s through the early '70s. Donald Albrecht, curator of the Norton Museum exhibition, told CBS News' Serena Altschul, "In that 10-, 12-year period, he was remarkably creative and inventive in a wide-range of different jewelry styles."
Bastille CuffBorn in Asheville, N.C., in 1925, David Webb was introduced to metalwork at age 9, in a WPA project. He quickly developed a passion for making jewelry. He apprenticed in his uncle's metal shop, and at age 17 moved to New York City, where he started working in the Diamond District. At age 23 he had his own shop, with three employees.
Left: David Webb's 1972 sketch for his Bastille Cuff.
The Elizabeth Taylor Makara Bracelet (designed in 1957), featured cabochon emeralds, circular-cut diamonds, platinum and gold. Inspired by an Indian sea-monster, it was the first animal bracelet David Webb designed, one of which was purchased by Elizabeth Taylor.
The Webb Zebra Bracelet
The Webb Zebra Bracelet (1963), featuring black and white enamel, circular-cut diamonds, cabochon rubies, platinum and gold. Each of Webb's zebra designs featured unique stripe patterns.
Ruth Peltason, author of the book, "David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler," told Altschul he became what she called a well-known secret: "The ladies who lunch started to hear about David Webb, and so, they'd come downtown in their chauffeured limousines."
Before long Webb's pieces were gracing the cover of Vogue and dripping from Hollywood royalty.
Twin Frog Bracelet
Twin Frog Bracelet (1964), one of the first of Webb's animal
bracelets, featuring green enamel, cabochon rubies, circular-cut diamonds,
platinum and gold.
"He really was the right man at the right place at the right time," Peltason said of Webb. "It was breakthrough jewelry. It was large. It spoke volumes. The rings are big. The jewelry has presence. I mean, this is jewelry for women who are independent-minded, who know their own style."
Leopard Brooch (1964), featuring collet-set diamond and black enamel quatrefoil spots, circular-cut diamonds, cabochon rubies, platinum and gold.
Webb largely avoided the spotlight and was rarely photographed. He died in 1975, without ever becoming a household name.
Thanks to a well-kept archive of some 40,000 sketches he left behind, a team of jewelers carries on Webb's legacy, producing pieces that sell from $5,000 into the millions -- worth every penny for those looking to shine in the spotlight.
Ceremonial Elephant Brooch
Ceremonial Elephant Brooch (1964), made from mabe pearl, carved rubies, circular-cut diamonds, carved and circular-cut emeralds, off-white enamel, platinum and gold.
Seahorse Brooch (1966), featuring carved coral, circular-cut diamonds, cabochon emeralds, platinum and gold.
Dappled Blue Horse Bracelet
Dappled Blue Horse Bracelet (1966), featuring stippled blue enamel, circular-cut diamons, cabochon emeralds, platinum and gold.
Heraldic Maltese Cross Necklace
Heraldic Maltese Cross Necklace (1967), with circular-cut diamonds, platinum and reeded gold cross with a reeded gold oval link chain.
Asheville Clematic Brooch
This Asheville Clematic Brooch (1968) features 105 circular-cut rubies (totaling nearly 40 carats), 159 circular-cut diamonds (totaling 8.34 carats), platinum, and white and yellow gold.
Marisa Berenson Ring
The Marisa Berenson Ring (1969) features a cushion-cut sapphire weighing approximately 9.79 carats, circular-cut diamonds, scored rock crystal, white enamel, platinum and gold.
The chased gold Nail Ring (1971).
David Webb's 1971 Tire Ring was redesigned in 2012 with circular-cut diamond collets, rectangular coral, white enamel, platinum and gold.
David Webb's Slice Cuff (designed in 1971), with pave-set diamonds, diamond collets, white enamel, platinum and gold; the Buckle Bracelet (1975), featuring pave-set diamonds, white enamel, platinum and gold; and the Rickrack Cuff (1972), with diamond collets, white enamel and hammered gold.
Helen MirrenHelen Mirren arrives at the 24th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 5, 2013 in Palm Springs, Calif.
Jennifer LawrenceA detail of David Webb jewelry worn by Jennifer Lawrence at the 24th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the JW Marriott on Saturday, April 20, 2013 in Los Angeles.
Cross River Ear Pendants
Faceted rock crystal open drops, decorated with circular-cut diamonds, with white gold and platinum in David Webb's Cross River Ear Pendants design from 1973; and in his 1975 design featuring diamond frames and black enamel.
Morena BaccarinMorena Baccarin arrives on the red carpet before the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Los Angeles.
Jamie KingA detail of David Webb jewelry worn by Jamie King at the 18th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards at The Barker Hanger on January 10, 2013 in Santa Monica, California.
Juno Bracelet (1973), featuring four chased gold octagonal links joined by pave-set diamond links, platinum and gold.
Eva MendezActress Eva Mendez attends the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Fantasy Object (1975), with hints of a Ch'ing dynasty mythical creature, features carved lapis lazuli, carved and cabochon rubies, circular-cut diamonds, cabochon emeralds, jade bi disks, scored rock crystal, white enamel, platinum and gold.
Cameron DiazA detail of David Webb jewelry worn by Cameron Diaz at the 2012 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower on February 26, 2012 in West Hollywood, Calif.
Twilight Pearl Tassel Necklace
Twilight Pearl Tassel Necklace (1979), featuring 64 baroque cultured pearls, black onyx links, circular-cut diamonds, black enamel, platinum and gold; with emerald and ruby beads and pearls.
"I think David Webb's legacy, for one thing, is being an American jeweler," said Ruth Peltason. "Born in this country, rags-to-riches, making it here, coming to New York, hiring a crew of people from all over the world, and working with them to make this one vision. I think that is such an American story."
Leopard Bracelet (fashioned in 1980), made with gold, black enamel, circular-cut diamonds, cabochon emeralds, and platinum.
The exhibition "David Webb" Society's Jeweler" runs at the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Fla., through April 13, 2014.
For more info:
"David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler" by Ruth Peltason (Assouline Publishing)
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan