Personal adornment, and in particular jewellery for men and women, has been a custom for thousands of years. Going back to the very earliest civilisations, men and women have always enjoyed expressing their individualism through jewellery. It can have profoundly personal and symbolic meanings, representing our relationships, our beliefs and our journey.
Men’s jewellery has never been more popular. In the 21st century, we have rediscovered that freedom of expression and men are wearing jewellery of all descriptions in every setting. Forget the basic ‘watch and wedding band’. Today, men’s jewellery ideas range from the simple to the ornate, the masculine to the more subtle. In this article, we’ll look a little more closely at what inspires men’s jewellery ideas, the options available, and the mysterious art of ‘stacking’.
From a simple bead on a leather thong to ornate golden torques, cuffs and earrings, men’s jewellery has always been a part of our culture. During the Tudor period, the favoured adornments were pearl earrings, gold chains, and gold rings, with Elizabethan men proudly wearing plenty of ‘bling’ to signify their status and wealth.
As the centuries turned, the Georgian and Victorian eras saw a decline in the level of men’s jewellery being worn, with a simple pocket watch as the only visible item on display. Even wedding bands were dropped, and for a while, the average man on the street wore very little, if any, jewellery whatsoever. At most, you may have spotted the occasional ‘pinkie’ signet ring on a man’s little finger, but items such as bracelets, necklaces and earrings were rarely seen.
However, with the invention of the wristwatch in the early 20th century, wearing jewellery became more acceptable among western cultures, and men started to adopt other items such as wedding bands. The later parts of the century saw a resurgence in more ornate men’s jewellery ideas. By the late 1960s and early ’70s, it was common to see hip young men walking down Carnaby Street sporting plenty of beads, bangles and bracelets.
The late 20th and early 21st centuries saw a rapid uptake of more ornate jewellery, driven by the music scene and fashion industry. Chunky gold necklaces and stacked bracelets became all the rage. But as time progressed, men’s jewellery became more refined.
Today, effortlessly stylish men’s jewellery is available in every high street jeweller and online. The classic wristwatch may still be part of that concept, but modern men now have far more choice when it comes to accessories and jewellery.
When it comes to modern men’s jewellery ideas, there are a few simple rules to ensure you get the best look possible.
Every men’s jewellery guide will tell you to keep things simple. Overly fussy jewellery can ruin a sleek, sophisticated look. For example, a dress watch for an evening event should be a simple silver option with a leather strap. Cufflinks are back in vogue, but again, the simpler, more elegant designs are far easier to coordinate with your other accessories and look more refined.
For the day, a sports watch and some stackable bracelets in natural leather or titanium work best.
Mixing gold and silver-coloured metals can be fun, but it can also result in a disjointed and garish look. Be aware that different carat ratings of gold will have different tones. So 18ct gold has a brighter yellow colour, whereas 9ct gold has a more subdued hue. Silver, steel and titanium men’s jewellery is easier to match as it all registers on the tonal scale as light grey. That means it won’t clash with any colour clothing and is more subtle for everyday wear.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but for men’s jewellery ideas, it’s best to keep those sparkles to a minimum. A subtle diamond earring or small diamonds inset into a wedding band works well. Over-the-top, jewel-encrusted pieces are a throwback to the hip-hop fashions of the last century, and simple designs that use a single stone as an accent are now in vogue.
That ‘surfer chic’ look is a real favourite with men, combining natural elements such as bone, leather and wood. Ethnic jewellery should be carefully thought about, though, as what may seem like a cool fashion statement to you may have a much deeper spiritual meaning for other cultures. It also only really works with more casual outfits. A stack of surfer bracelets made from leather and wooden beads may look great on the beach, but it’ll look out of place at a high-level board meeting.
Avoid ‘cultural appropriation’ with your jewellery – while a piece of Navaho turquoise may be amazing to look at, make sure you understand its meaning and wear it with respect.
We’ve mentioned ‘stacking’ before, so what exactly is it? Well, it’s a straightforward concept – stacking means wearing multiple items together, for example, two or three necklaces or several bracelets. The art of stacking is to avoid overdoing it. The current trend in men’s jewellery ideas for stacking bracelets is for slim, simple cuffs, rope, and natural leather that complements rather than clashes.
Necklaces should be different lengths (otherwise, they cancel each other out and can tangle very easily). Stacked bracelets should be worn on the opposite wrist to your watch hand to balance your look.
Other than a wedding band, the most common ring men wear is a signet ring. These usually look best without any other rings to detract from them, and a ‘less is more’ rule generally applies to rings. One of the big trends among men’s rings is ‘spinners’, where a secondary band freely spins around the central shank. Sleek and interesting, they come in a wide range of materials, including more unusual options such as stainless steel, titanium, and even tungsten. They’re tough, subtle, and suitable for everyday wear.
A plain gold or silver chain is best if you want to add interest to your neck and chest. Go for a 24” chain combined with a 22” pendant. While military-style dog tags were popular for a while, they now tend to look a little naff (unless they’re genuine) and are probably best avoided. Go for a classic Samurai tag instead. If you love the surfer vibe, a leather thong with a bone wave curl design is still on trend, but remember to tuck it out of sight if you’ve got an important interview or meeting.
Men rarely have both ears pierced, although it is becoming a little more common among younger men. The norm is to have one earring, usually a simple diamond stud. Anything more ornate tends to look a little over the top and will actually detract from your overall look rather than complement it. As with most jewellery for men, the key is to go for a more understated look.
Coloured metals are a matter of personal choice. While gold will never lose its appeal, silver-coloured metals are often considered more masculine and suitable for men’s jewellery. Remember that with gold, the higher the carat, the softer the metal. So if you’re looking for a tough, relatively scratch-resistant ring that you can wear every day, a 9ct ring is more suitable than a softer 18ct option. The more muted tone of 9ct gold is also more suitable for men’s jewellery.
Platinum has been hugely popular in jewellery-making for over 100 years and became seriously cool in the 1930s. Today, platinum is valued for its rarity, resilience to damage and scratching, and soft, satin sheen.
Jewellery for men doesn’t start and finish with gold and platinum. Other options are available, including silver, stainless steel and titanium. While silver is relatively soft and easily scratched, it is much cheaper than other metals. Silver men’s jewellery is popular because it’s easily wearable, and you can always replace it with something new without breaking the bank.
Stainless steel has a big following in men’s jewellery. It’s incredibly resilient and won’t tarnish, so it’s suitable for everyday wear. However, because stainless steel is a tough metal to work with due to its hardness, you may find that stainless steel jewellery is a little more expensive than you thought. The same applies to titanium, which is incredibly hard and long-lasting. A popular trend is anodised titanium. The anodising process gives the surface a multi-coloured, iridescent sheen, often called an ‘oil-slick sheen’.
You may also find these less common metals combined with other materials, such as highly polished wood, enamels, and natural leather.
Jewellery for men falls into two camps – purely decorative and jewellery with meaning. But when it comes to sentimental pieces, all the recommendations and guidelines we’ve given you in this men’s jewellery guide go out of the window. If it’s personal to you, whether it’s a wedding ring, your grandfather’s watch, or a simple twine friendship bracelet given to you by your child, wear that piece with pride.
If you have a wedding ring that you want to keep on you, but your work environment makes it impossible, impractical or even dangerous to wear rings, pop it on a chain and hang it around your neck until you can put it back on your finger.
Jewellery for men falls into a variety of different categories, including everyday, special occasions, and workwear.
You will need to check your employer’s rules and regulations regarding what you can or cannot wear in the workplace. In some environments, jewellery of any kind isn’t practical or permissible, including in hospitals or medical centres. If that’s the case, leave the jewellery at home. However, if you work in an office or in a job where wearing jewellery won’t cause a practical issue, our advice is still to keep things minimal. A watch, a wedding ring, and perhaps one or two subtle stacked bracelets are enough to allow you to express your individuality without overdoing things.
For special occasions, it’s time to break out the quality men’s jewellery. From cufflinks and tie pins to a dress watch and signet ring, the art of dressing for a formal occasion is to, once again, keep it simple and elegant. A single diamond stud earring gives a flash of glamour for a red-carpet event.
For everyday wear or casual outfits, anything goes. Stacked rope bracelets are on trend right now, as are natural leather and wooden beads. For casual wear, silver metal is preferable to gold, as it has a more earthy feel that works well with neutral tones, browns, blues and greys.
It can be tempting to raid online auction sites for ‘cheap and cheerful’ jewellery for men. But our advice is to avoid tacky, cheap jewellery because, unfortunately, no matter what you do, it will always look cheap and tacky! A few quality pieces that you can wear again and again are a much better investment than a whole drawer full of poor-quality pieces you only ever wear once.
Remember that jewellery can also have a personal meaning, so take your time to choose something that really resonates with you. Does it reflect your personality? Does it feel ‘natural’ when you put it on? If you can answer those questions with a ‘yes’, then regardless of the price tag or the label, it’s the right piece for you.
Look at what’s on trend for casual wear, such as rope and anchor or rope and hook bracelets, slim metal stackable bracelets, and box chain necklaces. But again, remember that if it doesn’t feel right, it won’t look right. Never try and ‘force’ your jewellery to fit your personality and your style. Men’s jewellery should reflect who you are, not just what’s hot on social media.
And most of all, wear every piece with passion and flair. The trick is how you wear your jewellery, not what you wear. Enjoy wearing every piece. After all, you’re following in a rich tradition of men’s jewellery through the ages, so why not flaunt it?
At TH March we offer specialist watch insurance that gives you cover in the event of accidental damage, loss and theft of your items. With over 130 years of experience in jewellery insurance, we offer affordable cover and a hassle-free claims process that helps you to make sure your investment is looked after.