"I suppose I'm what you'd call an urban person," says Londoner Stephen Webster, whose bold, resolutely undainty designs have become the rage among the fearlessly stylish flock. "A city environment in Barcelona or Rome is more inspiring to me than a tropical sunset."
Webster, who designed the rings for Madonna's wedding to Guy Ritchie, thrives on the bustle of metropolitan life: "It's when I'm most creative." Still, you can't find raw gemstones on Jermyn Street, so Webster, like others in his business, has trooped east in search of treasures. "I went to India this year. I buy the stuff just the way it comes out of the ground and bring it to my own cutter," he says. Every other month Webster travels to Idar-Oberstein, Germany, a town specializing in stonecutting. "A few hundred years ago they mined agate there to use as ship ballast," he explains. "The agate mines are gone now, but the stoneworking skills persist. Nearly all the semiprecious stones in the world pass through this little village."
Lately, Webster has fallen in love with another little village: the area around Manhattan's Maiden Lane, where he recently opened a showroom. But even though he finds himself near Wall Street, the straitlaced atmosphere hasn't informed his vision: one of his recent creations, a gold armband, resembles a tattoo. [Editor's note: Webster's Maiden Lane store, in downtown Manhattan, has closed until further notice. The company are still available at the phone number listed below.]
VICTOIRE DE CASTELLANE
The chic designer of the Dior Joaillerie collection, Victoire de Castellane may not brave the open seas in search of pearls, but that doesn't mean she never ventures out into the field. "I love to go to Capri, for coral. I am so fond of southern Italy—that way of life, the sun and the sea," she says. Many of the other gems she works with have been brought from far-flung ports—sapphires from India, tourmalines from Madagascar—by dealers who know her penchant for pastel stones. "I especially love pink," confesses the exuberant designer. And when she says, "I adore the idea of travel to the past," she isn't talking about hanging out on the Via Veneto or lolling on the Queen Mary. "It's the thought of traveling to places not yet so touched by man—more sauvage, not so many buildings."
One might presume that treks to the unspoiled African savanna inspired her pavé diamond leopard ring. "Oh no," she insists, "it's because of Mitza Bricard." Famous muse to Christian Dior more than a half-century ago, Bricard always wore a leopard-print scarf tied around her wrist (intended to hide a scar). "When Dior saw it, he fell in love with the leopard fabric and put it in his collection. I made the jewelry as an homage to Mitza."