Fine Jewellery For Men, Once Largely Absent From Fashion, Is Making A Comeback In Exciting and Unexpected Ways

Today, men are increasingly embracing dazzling luxury jewels, and luxury brands are quickly catching on.
by Yanni Tan

Photo: Louis Vuitton

Last September, Sotheby’s New York did what no one had conceived — hold an exhibition on the evolution of men’s jewellery. Presenting approximately 100 pieces of antique, vintage, and contemporary designs, some of which were not necessarily made for men but worn by them, For the Boys: A Jewelry Exhibition was an exercise in education and awareness — that men can wear dazzling luxury jewels, too.

Indeed, signs are pointing to the boys’ renewed interest in bling. According to Euromonitor, the men’s fine jewellery market was worth around US$7.3 billion ($9.8 billion) in 2023. While the numbers are only about a sixth of the women’s market, this sector’s estimated annual growth of 7.3 per cent far outpaces the ladies’.

And no, these figures are not for affordable fashion accessories, but pieces made with precious materials, such as gemstones and gold, that would make one think twice before committing — and wearing.

Jack de Boucheron Ultime Brooch. (Photo: Boucheron)

Aside from couple or wedding bands, most high-end brands have always offered accessible, graphic-driven jewellery that blokes might fancy. Think Bulgari’s 25-year-old, avant-garde B.zero1 collection or Cartier’s 1971 creation, Juste Un Clou, the brainchild of Italian designer Aldo Cipullo, who fused his signature utilitarianism with glamour through a simple nail motif. Still, the main audience was never the lads.

Over the last decade, the tide has turned; such collections evolved to boast stronger gender fluidity, often with deeper colours and edgier aesthetics. Bulgari updated the B.zero1 with spikes and dark shades of marble and ceramic, while Boucheron debuted a black gold alloy for its Quatre collection.

Cartier also relaunched the Juste Un Clou with thicker versions and introduced the unabashedly studded Clash de Cartier.

Les Gastons Vuitton Collection. (Photo: Louis Vuitton)

Only recently, fine jewellery collections started to zero in on men. In 2022, Boucheron refreshed its Jack de Boucheron line with a Ultime capsule range that features the auxiliary jack motif in Cofalit, an intense black industrial material used in road building. Last year saw Tiffany & Co. launch the minimalist Tiffany Lock line, which was followed by the hefty Tiffany Forge.

This January, Louis Vuitton dropped Les Gastons Vuitton, a collection featuring chunky rings and dog tag necklaces made with diamonds, yellow and white gold, and dark denim-blue titanium. It’s not rocket science to guess what might follow suit.

Jewellery, historically

Historically, men often wore jewellery, but modern fashion trends shifted away from this, with exceptions in certain spiritual and subcultural groups like hip-hop and punk. Early men had piled on the bling as talismans for power and protection, then later, the elite wore them as symbols of status and wealth.

Bulgari ambassador Ayden Sng wearing a Monete high jewellery gold necklace. (Photo: Bulgari)

Leonard Augustine Choo, the director of industry development at the Singapore Fashion Council, reminds us that ancient noblemen were at the forefront of jewellery patronage. “From the Byzantines to the Romans to the Chinese Emperors, everyone wore jewels. During the time of Henry VIII, both genders wore jewellery in equal proportion.

In fact, men’s jewels could often be more pronounced, larger, and more materially significant. And remember the painting of William Shakespeare, who was depicted wearing an earring?”

The decline began during the Great Male Renunciation, explains Choo, formerly a costumer with The Julliard School and New York City Ballet who has just curated the current La Veste French designer men’s jacket exhibition at Alliance Française.

The term, introduced by psychoanalyst John Flügel in 1930, refers to a change in men’s fashion in the late 1700s. Influenced by Enlightenment ideals, it led wealthy men to choose simpler, more practical clothing over flashy, decorative styles.

NN by Nghi Spider Ice white gold ring with diamonds and sapphires. (Photo: Sotheby’s)

What followed — the French Revolution, the two World Wars, US military rationalism, and the rise of the Industrial Age and merchant class — didn’t help either. Even in the electric 80s, when oversized power jewellery reigned supreme, men stuck to loud yellow gold chains, bracelets, and rings. Nothing so far has unseated the belief that men are not quite allowed to have as much fun as the ladies.

If utilitarianism were the great social equaliser in the past, it would be a conservative corporate culture today. Buttoned- and tied-up, men in office wear could only go so far as to dress up with luxury watches (albeit hidden under sleeves) and the occasional signet ring.

“Having to wear a uniform at work doesn’t mean you don’t have an identity to express,” explains Choo, who’s also a fashion consultant and part-time lecturer. “Incrementally, you see people — ladies included — asserting their individuality.”


And instead of following seasonal trends blindly, Choo suggests finding or creating jewels that tell a story. “You could upcycle a family heirloom or make something from a gemstone that is symbolic to you. If you have to purchase functional jewellery, pick a brand whose ethos is meaningful or that is part of an artistic movement you like. It doesn’t need to be a fantastically expensive piece; it could be for personal reasons such as supporting a small local brand, circular fashion or sustainable approaches.”

The final frontier of men’s jewellery lies in high jewels, the most elaborate, finest and dearest of them all. Boucheron has led the way since 2021 with its annual top-tier collections depicting male models clad in parts of transformable creations such as diamond belts, brooches and bow-ties.

Bulgari’s ambassadors regularly show up for events draped in lavish Serpenti necklaces. We haven’t seen these worn by male collectors about town yet, but we wait in anticipation.

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

, , ,

Type keyword(s) and press Enter