Jewelry is very much a ladies’ game these days, but it was not always so. Going back through history, from the Indian Maharajahs to King Solomon, a man’s wealth and power was displayed via his personal adornment by jewelry: the more the better; the bigger the better. Even through the turn of the 20th Century, it was not uncommon to see gentlemen of affluence wearing a family heirloom ring or stick pin. Nowadays, you might see a man wearing a class ring or signet ring (pinky rings are not just for mobsters), but it’s pretty rare.
Something happened in through the early and middle 20th Century, though. With the Great Depression sandwiched by the two World Wars, the ideology of what made men men morphed. Even though designer watches exploded in the US during the 1940s and 1950s, men stopped wearing jewelry other than cuff links and wedding bands. Until the 1970s, there was little jewelry to be seen on most gentlemen.
But over the last forty years, I’ve watched men’s jewelry evolve from the black-and-white view of asceticism versus opulence to a societal understanding of style and fashion being more than the realm of eccentric Europeans and marginalized flamboyance.
With Generation Y (kids born between about 1980 and 1995) starting to assume the lion’s share of buying power, in just the last few years, I have witnessed a shift from “Real men don’t wear jewelry,” to “This is about personalization and showing the world who I am.”
It is now not unusual to see a leather and sterling bracelet peeking out from under a business exec’s cuff at a board meeting. Gemstones with stories behind them, such as jade, turquoise, and hematite, are making it into gent’s right-hand rings. The timeless look of lapis in yellow gold never really lost its appeal, but its appreciation has grown to include this oncoming generation.
While it’s true that most men over 35 still prefer to keep it simple, they are not all that way. Jewelry can be flashy or it can be understated. I make rugged gents’ rings with replicas of ancient coins; sometimes I’ll even use the actual coin to create a true heirloom piece. The design of a cross or a Magen David can convey as much or as little about a man’s personal style as he so desires. Some guys like to keep their personalization to themselves; others appreciate ostentation for ostentation’s sake.
I carry designers like David Heston, Doug Zaruba, and Lashbrook; all of whom make awesomely manly jewelry. And then, of course, there’s my own custom collection to consider. I can build you just about anything you want.
My point is that men’s gifts are no longer limited to ties and pens. You should ask the important man in your life how he’d feel about a custom piece of jewelry, or at least something other than a pair of cuff links. You might be surprised by his answer.