At one time, a guide to men’s jewelry might have started with a look at fashionable watches and ended with a mention of cufflinks and perhaps a tie pin—since most other jewelry, from engagement rings and bracelets to everyday wear, like earrings and necklaces, was being almost exclusively designed with women in mind.
Though the traditional staples of men’s jewelry remain important for the well-appointed business man, men’s jewelry has a much richer history and is enjoying a thoroughly modern renaissance. Contemporary designers are no longer bound to the traditional formal cufflinks and plain wedding bands.
From bracelets to rings, necklaces, and even single earrings, men’s jewelry is available in a wide variety of styles and can make bold or refined statements, from the boardroom to the nightclub. In the following article, we’ll highlight some of the jewelry options available to men today, from the traditional to the extravagantly modern, and offer some basic guidelines on when and how to wear each extreme.
Watches for Men
Watches as jewelry for men have a long history, thanks in part to their utilitarian function. Often used to make a statement of class and social status, watches are the most widely accepted form of jewelry for men, and can accentuate a gentleman’s look at a black tie affair or a casual jeans and t-shirt cookout.
Choosing a watch can be complex and expensive—they run the gamut from simple digital timekeepers to complicated analog masterpieces of technical craftsmanship. While a Timex Ironman will never convey the same gravitas as an A. Lange & Sohne Saxonia Thin, each can have its place as an accessory for men.
When utilizing a watch as a part of one’s overall look, there are a few considerations beyond the utilitarian, mechanical qualities to consider. Foremost is the occasion: a watch should match the formality of the occasion. Generally speaking, the simpler a watch is, the dressier it is. For formal occasions, a classic analog watch with a black leather band is probably best. Be sure to match the band with the rest of the outfit—shoes, belt, and watchband should all be black or brown.
More casual events lend themselves to various kinds of sports watches, but even here, the watch should match the rest of the outfit. The metal of the band and case should be the same as any other jewelry worn. A stainless steel band on a Rolex simply won’t look right with a gold necklace.
Rings for Men
By far the most common piece of jewelry for men is the traditional wedding band. Nothing is more widely accepted than this simple statement of commitment, but rings more elaborate than the traditional band have adorned men’s fingers throughout history. Rings on men have historically served both decorative and symbolic needs, whether as pledges of allegiance, talismans to protect the wearer from evil forces, or as the outward symbol of power and wealth.
Signet rings were once used to identify the wearer. Usually engraved with a monogram, coat of arms, or set with an intaglio gem engraved with such a symbol, signet rings were used to seal letters with the mark of the sender set in wax, or to similarly authenticate a document. Though no longer used as an ‘’authentication mark,” signet rings are still worn by some and are sometimes viewed as the “mark of a gentleman.”
The most common non-wedding rings worn by men today are affiliation rings, which include fraternal rings, class rings, and the occasional ring with a family crest. Military academy graduates often wear a ring signifying their allegiance to their branch of the military.
Even though it takes a certain amount of bravado for a man to wear a ring that isn’t a wedding band or a ring with a family or fraternal affiliation, many modern men are opting to wear rings without an “excuse.” Fashionable rings for men range from simple, elegant, metal bands, like Cartier’s Love ring, to gem encrusted bling. Though the rules have certainly changed for purely stye-oriented rings, most men prefer to opt for understatement. That said, jewelry designers like Stephen Webster and Solange Azagury-Partridge are creating opulent, bold statements in rings for men.
When considering what ring to wear, it’s probably best to consider the occasion. The same ring that might be appropriate for a Friday night opening at a high-street art gallery might not be appropriate for the boardroom Monday morning. As with all men’s jewelry, discretion is often the better part of valor.
Cufflinks and Tie Clips
Tie clips are another ‘functional’ piece of men’s jewelry—an accessory born out of necessity. Evolved from early stickpins that held ascots and scarves in place, modern tie clips are designed to secure a gentleman’s tie to his shirt. By the 1950s, every business man wore a business suit and a tie, and with it a tie clip. Though tie clips waned in popularity in the 1980s, they have begun to make a comeback.
Tie clips come in a few varieties, including tie tacks, and tie bars. Tie tacks are the original tie clip, and usually have a small chain with an attached T-bar that passes through a buttonhole to keep the tie in place. Since the tack itself pierces the tie like a lapel pin, tie tacks are best for silk ties or coarser fabrics, as the tiny holes made are ‘self healing’.
Tie bars attach the tie to the shirt by means of an alligator like clip, and can be adorned with any number of decorations, from simple designs and fine gems to sports team logos. Tie clips should be about 70-80 percent of the width of the tie, with narrower ties calling for narrower clips. As usual, consider the occasion and personal style when choosing a tie clip, and make sure to match the metals with other pieces.
Cufflinks are worn on dress shirts with French or double cuffs, and serve to hold the cuffs in place in lieu of buttons. Cufflinks can be made of precious metal or silk knots, or with a variety of precious stones. This functional piece of jewelry really lends itself to personal statement. The wide variety of cufflinks available can say anything from ‘mahogany wainscoting’ to ‘whimsical irony.’ Use common sense and let the occasion be your guide. And as always, make sure the metal matches other jewelry you are wearing.
Necklaces for Men
If there is a general resistance to all jewelry from a particular man, necklaces may be the hardest piece of jewelry for him to adopt. That said, many men wear them, and they come in a wide variety of styles, though you’ll often not encounter the rows of jewels that you find in ladies fashion.
The most common type of necklace for men is a plain, unadorned chain. Depending on the style and the type of metal, a simple chain can accentuate a man’s look, whether he’s in a tailored suit or jeans and a t-shirt. As with most types of jewelry for men, simpler is generally better, and modesty is key—an unadorned chain should be worn underneath the shirt. Relatively flat loops spaced closely together make the chain appear as a nearly solid band of metal, and should hang a bit below the collarbone.
Choker-style necklaces are solid bands that don’t hang down, and are appropriate to wear with just about anything but a tailored suit. These short necklaces can be fashioned from precious metal, woven cord, leather, or even beads, but as always, consider the occasion when choosing what to wear. Since chokers are short enough to remain visible above a low collar, they are fully visible and stand out on their own, making a bold statement.
Pendant style necklaces feature a single ornament on a relatively long chain, and can support anything from a religious symbol or personal memento to a shaped jewel. The length of the chain here can vary, but about six to eight inches above the navel is a recommended range. Though pendants can be worn outside very casual shirts, they are usually worn underneath any shirt with a collar.
Bracelets for Men
While not a new phenomenon, bracelets for men have become quite popular in the last few years. Made of just about any material you can think of, bracelets for men can highlight almost any kind of look, from simple beach wear to business casual.
Probably the most masculine bracelets are metal ID style bracelets, which have been worn with confidence for many years by men like James Dean and Marlon Brando. As these bracelets tend to be a bit heavy and clunky, they are usually worn as standalone pieces, on the wrist opposite the watch. And as with most men’s jewelry, be sure to match metals—a silver bracelet shouldn’t clash with a gold Rolex.
Woven and beaded bracelets are a great way to work color into a look, and current options include a variety of options, from nautical themed woven nylon cord or ethnic inspired wooden beads to understated black and grayscale beads for a more refined look. These bracelets lend themselves to stacking, and many men are opting to wear multiple woven and beaded bracelets for a completely personalized look.
Leather is a popular material for bracelets as well, and can compliment a man’s casual yet refined look—depending on the size and style, leather can retain a masculine formality or youthful rebellion. A thin brown leather bracelet can be worn with a tailored look, but a wide leather cuff with jeans and a t-shirt is much edgier.
Where to Sell Men’s Jewelry
If you are looking to sell your men’s jewelry, contact Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers today for a free appraisal and immediate cash offer. We specialize in providing clients with the highest payouts for their previously-owned diamond wedding bands, platinum cufflinks, 18k gold bracelets, and men’s jewelry and watches from Cartier, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, Rolex, and other exclusive brands.