Jewelry & Watches

For David Yurman and His Family, the Jewelry Business Was a Way to Keep Creating

Art and craftsmanship run in the family.
IMAGE TIAGO MOLINOS
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Evan Yurman and his wife Ku-Ling are strolling the grounds of the Amagansett estate of Evan’s parents, David and Sybil Yurman, when he comes across a sculpture, a sturdy pillar of two interwoven stainless steel lines that stands tall against the vast landscape. “If it weren’t for that sculpture, I wouldn’t be here,” he says. The piece, it turns out, was made by the Dutch-American artist Hans Van de Bovenkamp, in whose studio David and Sybil met, in September 1969.

The way David and Sybil tell it, in a scene straight out of Nora Ephron, Sybil had reluctantly come to the studio from Martha’s Vineyard for a job interview—she wanted to keep living on the island instead of moving to New York—when she noticed the young David, then studio manager, working on his own. “You saw me when you walked in? I never heard your story,” David says. “You never asked me!” Sybil replies.

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Ku-Ling and Evan Yurman and David and Sybil Yurman and the Yurmans

Years later, after building a pioneering designer jewelry empire—breaking into a field that had been dominated by European houses—David and Sybil traded some of their striking creations to Van de Bovenkamp for the monument that is now anchored outside their home. “It’s a single unit, but there are two elements to it,” David says. “It’s marriage, the union of two strands that make one harmonious form.”

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The Yurmans, in business and in life, are a tight household (David is chairman and CEO; Sybil, a painter herself, is chief brand officer; and Evan, who trained as a blacksmith, is chief creative officer), with a shared vision forged early in the founders’ artistic practice.

We never had a desire to have a business. It was always a way for us to keep painting and sculpting and sustain this making gene. All of us have it in the family.

It’s a commitment reflected in the brand’s support for fellow artists and major institutions—from the Guggenheim to its underwriting of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s blockbuster “Golden Kingdoms” exhibit about jewelry in the ancient Americas—and in its creative process. “We’re a design-based jewelry company, not a company that makes jewelry,” Evan says. “We shape the business according to our business needs, not the other way around.”

And just as Evan grew up working beside his father, his children (Jasper, three; Lulu, seven; and Cody, nine) with Ku-Ling, a filmmaker, are already demonstrating a predisposition to the craft. Cody has a bench next to Sybil in the design studio (“It’s really a wonderful feeling,” Sybil says) and worked on a children’s line at eight that was carried in their stores.

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For all, there’s a sense of satisfaction and pride in the knowledge that a third generation may carry on the Yurman legacy, even if they would never use that word themselves. “We never had a desire to have a business, as it were. It was always a way for us to keep painting and sculpting and sustain this making gene,” Sybil says. “All of us have it in the family.”

This story appears in the November 2018 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Erik Maza
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