LONDON — Stephen Webster is sharing his jewelry journey in a book that delves into his 39-year “love affair with gold,” and also features his original poetry and a short story.
“Goldstruck: A Life Shaped by Jewellery” (Salma Editions, 2015) spans 350 pages, with a foreword written by his longtime friend Tracey Emin, and photography by Rankin, Amelia Troubridge and Webster himself. It launches here on Tuesday.
Webster takes a look back at a career that started with a jewelry-making course in Kent. “When I was 16 years old, I became so entrenched in the process of making jewelry. I thought it’s one of the greatest things in the world — making things that are precious,” Webster said during an interview at his design studio in Mayfair. “That has sort of taken me to many places and to meeting amazing people. The book is about the adventures and encounters — good or bad. It’s not my autobiography, but it definitely follows chronologically my life as a jeweler.”
Webster based the book on diary entries, logged mainly during trips around the world. He said he’s flown a million miles on American Airlines, and wrote “140,000 words on an iPad,” while in-flight.
Webster, whose long list of clients includes Kate Moss, Jay-Z, Johnny Depp and Cameron Diaz, writes about his career highlights, including a major Madonna moment that impacted his business significantly. He designed a cocktail ring — and later her engagement ring — before Madonna’s wedding to her now ex-husband Guy Ritchie.
“It was all about timing,” said Webster. “Nobody knew who Steven Webster was. Through my encounter with Madonna and being asked to go over to her house and showing my jewelry, she picked a ring.”
Webster admitted that he’d downed a gin and tonic to calm himself down but, as it turns out, he didn’t even need to.
“Madonna came back into the room and in this mist of smoke she said ‘I burnt my toast,'” said Webster. “From that moment, she was this real human as opposed to a slightly scary encounter. Later on, she met Guy Ritchie and the first picture shot of them together in the newspaper, she was wearing the ring on the finger. That spread like wildfire. And then you go from complete obscurity to the hottest thing in jewelry. I think after that time in the mid-Nineties, jewelry started to be something connected to fashion. Before that it was difficult to connect it. Jewelry was sort of going through this transition.”
During the interview, the designer also talked about his love of writing — and his dyslexia. “At a time in the Sixties and Seventies, they didn’t know what to do with dyslexia. They just think that you’re a bad speller. Later in life, it worked out, so now there’s spell check and I spell check everything. I’m not saying I have a gift as a writer, but I have a style and it’s accessible.”
A poetry lover, Webster also penned a poem called “I am a Jewellery Man” that offers a witty glimpse into his world. “My poet friends probably think it’s crap,” said Webster. “I don’t want to be a poet. But I realize that you can entertain people with a poem. It’s a great way to communicate what’s going on in the world at the time. It’s an incredible powerful thing in a very short verse.”
Webster said his good friend John Cooper Clarke is one of his favorite poets. “He is incredibly funny and poignant and it was through him that I had an appreciation for poetry,” he said.
He also wrote “The Cardigan,” a short story about something that happened to his sweater during a flight. “I wrote it on the spur of the moment,” he said. “I sent it to my staff and they were laughing. It was much more about the perils of travel than anything else.”
Webster also talked about his latest collaboration with Emin, whom he’s known for 40 years. It will be unveiled on Feb. 14, and sold exclusively on Net-a-porter. After Emin designed an “I promise to love you” LED light installation for Webster’s store in Los Angeles, the designer suggested working together to fuse their aesthetics. The result is a capsule collection of 18-karat gold jewelry cocreated by the two friends.
“She loved it, and she got emotional about it,” said Webster. “I don’t think she’d normally do anything like that with someone she doesn’t know as well as me. I think we’ve got a collection that’s very, very democratic. She wanted something people can buy, so the price point starts at $600. It’s completely Tracey. The designs look exactly like how she would draw it.”
Net-a-porter will be selling it exclusively. He said it’s the biggest order that Net has ever done with him.
The standard edition of the book is priced at 50 pounds, or $76, and 150 pounds, or $228, for a limited-edition version. It will available for purchase at Bergdorf Goodman, Fortnum & Mason and Amazon.