Internationally renowned jewelry designer David Yurman is perfecting the placement of a necklace in a vitrine when he’s spotted.
A tall, elegant woman strides toward him, her slightly outstretched arms encircled wrist-to-elbow in thick, twisted metal cable bracelets studded with semi-precious stones, a signature Yurman style. The two fall into conversation as naturally as if they’d known each other forever. They touch her bangles and bond while discussing design, materials and the milestones that merited each addition to her coveted Yurman collection.
It’s a quiet moment of true connection between artist and patron, the first of many to take place on a recent afternoon in the fine jewelry salon at Neiman Marcus Fort Worth.
The occasion is the debut of Yurman’s new Pure Form Collection. The collection, which incorporates bronze mixed with other metals, is exclusive to Neiman Marcus stores nationwide.
Yurman’s purpose at the luxury retailer’s Fort Worth store was to meet, greet and personally present his designs to an at-capacity crowd of fans dedicated to his eponymous brand. It’s a responsibility Yurman clearly relishes. Slim and stylish, the dapper seventy-something remains actively involved in the company that he and his wife, Sybil, founded in 1980 following years of making and selling jewelry at arts and crafts fairs across the country.
Today, David Yurman jewelry and fine timepieces are available at more than 40 retail locations throughout the United States and France (plus hundreds of wholesale locations). There’s a flagship boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and another flagship, a historic five-story converted townhome, on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue. His designs have won myriad awards, including design patents and trademarks, and his Signature Cable designs and Silver Ice designs, which pair diamonds with sterling silver, have become iconic.
Although David Yurman is one of the most recognized names in the jewelry business, inspiration for the Pure Form collection came from Yurman’s earliest artistic endeavors, back when he was a young New York City-based sculptor working with bronze.
Yurman began his career as a sculptor at the age of 16 when he met celebrated Cuban sculptor Ernesto Gonzalez. From Gonzalez, Yurman learned how to work with bronze using a process called direct welding. The process was common in the construction industry, but artists like Gonzalez and Pablo Picasso had adapted it for sculpture. They said the melting and molding of molten bronze was like “drawing in space.” Yurman took to the technique and likened it to “dreaming with his hands.”
During the years that followed his training with Gonzalez, Yurman apprenticed with the modernist sculptor Jacques Lipchitz and eventually became the foreman of contemporary abstract sculptor Hans Von de Bovenkamp’s Greenwich Village studio.
Around that time, Yurman created an undulating, free form bronze statement necklace for a fellow artist, an abstract painter named Sybil (who was his girlfriend at the time). She wore the necklace to an art opening, and the gallery owner fell in love with it. He asked if it was for sale. Yurman said no, but Sybil answered yes – and proceeded to take off the necklace and leave it with the gallery owner. Within hours, the gallery owner had sold the original necklace plus several other pieces Yurman had made.
That event marked the beginning of Yurman’s transition to jewelry, but he never forgot the years he spent sculpting in bronze. Fast forward nearly forty years, and both the material and the method have come together, becoming the inspiration behind the new Pure Form Collection.
Yurman describes the design process behind the Pure Form Collection as “pure sculpture.” He’d wanted to work in bronze for a while, and it was important that the material was allowed to express itself rather than being “put in a historical moment like Deco or Renaissance,” he says. “The moment was for being unfussy.”
Although the Pure Form Collection has only just taken its place in Neiman Marcus’ elegant vitrines, Yurman already is looking forward to seeing the effects of time and wear on each piece. “When you own a bronze piece, as you wear it, it becomes yours, and every bronze piece is going to look different,” he says. “I don’t want people polishing it, taking the patina off — the patina shows age and character, and I like the fact that this will develop your character.”