It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started, but in recent years there’s been a shift in the way men approach jewellery. In the past, men’s jewellery was a relatively barren field, dominated by watches (which, strictly speaking, form a category of their own), simple wedding bands, and occasionally cufflinks. “I clearly remember a time when the majority of my male clients were really only coming for wedding bands,” recalls Joel Muller, a Montreal-based independent jeweller. “More often than not, they even felt uncomfortable in the process because they weren’t used to wearing jewellery — or felt like it was something they couldn’t pull off.”
Eventually, some younger men began sporting earrings, while others of all ages were wearing necklaces they kept tucked under a layer or two of clothing. In the ‘90s, ‘00s, and early 2010s, we witnessed an era of boisterous bling ushered in by the likes of Ben Baller and Jacob the Jeweller, and worn with braggadocio by athletes and rappers. Think the backdrop for Uncut Gems.
And recently, the men’s jewellery scene has started to take on a new shape, where dainty and daring coexist, and where more men are experimenting with their jewellery. “In the last few years, women have undoubtedly taken up a more prominent role in society,” says Valérie Messika, founder of the high-end jewellery brand that bears her name. “The dynamic between men and women has been rebalanced in many ways, and men have been able to accept certain aspects of themselves that were considered more feminine in the past.”
The most telling shift came at the turn of this decade, when the internet was set alight — first by Harry Styles’ pearl necklaces, then by the small gold chain Paul Mescal wore in the television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People.
Around the same time, Los Angeles-based Chrome Hearts, a once-niche purveyor of hard-to-come-by neo-Gothic hardware, enjoyed a surge in popularity and recognition. Frank Ocean even dipped into the jewellery world when he founded his own brand, Homer, in 2021. More recently — and perhaps more tellingly — well-established, high-end jewellers including Tiffany & Co. and Messika have launched dedicated men’s lines and tapped their first male ambassadors in BTS’s Jimin and supermodel Alton Mason, respectively. Even smaller, independent craftspeople and local brands, such as Muller in Montreal or Toronto’s Boyd Court, are enjoying men’s newfound affinity for jewellery.
“I think men are getting more confident in displaying their personal style,” says Taylor Hill, who founded Boyd Court in 2018 after retiring from the music industry. “They are incorporating more items into their daily wear that might have previously been reserved for special occasions — jewellery being at the forefront.” Hill cites the rise of social media as a factor that has helped popularize jewellery for men. “We’re seeing more and more people showcasing their style and jewellery daily, which used to mainly be seen on the runway and in editorials.”
It helps to see celebrities wearing more jewellery, but what has really encouraged men to step outside their comfort zones is seeing their peers wearing a little more bling. Consequently, men’s jewellery today trades in both revamped classics and new categories, eager to ease men into the world of gold, silver, and platinum however it can. Messika, for example, offers dog tag-inspired titanium necklaces and cufflinks, infused with a cool, youthful edge thanks to matte finishing and the brand’s trademark sliding diamonds. “I’m creating a lot of non-gendered jewellery,” Messika tells SHARP. “It’s now in my spirits to appeal to more masculine proportions, something that I didn’t tap into before.”
Tiffany introduced its first men’s engagement ring in 2021, followed by the Tiffany Lock — an all-gender take on an iconic motif of the maison. Recently, the brand also unveiled a collaboration with Nike and began offering the kind of accessories that brands such as Supreme and Palace normally trade in: cocktail sets, pool balls, even a compass. It’s all an apparent attempt by what is arguably the world’s most recognizable jewellery brand to court sneaker-mad and hype-driven young men.
When he launched Boyd Court, Hill was trying to cater to that same mix of both classic and contemporary. “I felt there was a gap in the market. There were a ton of trendy products that felt fleeting and not the best quality, and then you had your traditional brands that have been around for 100-plus years. Nothing felt like it satisfied the middle market.” Four years on, it seems like a prescient decision, and the brand continues to offer irreverent takes on rings — in silver and gold, with gem signets and hammered textures — as well as pendants, earrings, and even sterling silver lighter sleeves.
Muller, who started making jewellery in 1997, also notes an uptick in the demand for bespoke jewellery of late. “I get lots of guys coming in to create custom pieces for themselves, either as a fun accessory or a piece of significance-holding sentiment, a memento piece.” And he says it’s men “from all corners, coming and looking for all manner of things. It’s really incredible, and it has allowed me to expand my creativity.”
It’s clear that jewellery has been redefined for an entire generation of men, however, both Hill and Messika feel one piece of jewellery still has room for growth: the humble wedding ring. “I think there’s still some hesitation with wedding bands,” says Hill. “We see women’s engagement rings having a real moment of creative inspiration and I think men should feel more confident branching out to different styles.”
As well, Messika recommends leather. “It’s definitely a great entryway for men looking to wear more jewellery,” she says, highlighting the brand’s My Move collection, which features interchangeable leather bands.
Such versatility is front and centre of this new era of men’s jewellery. Tiffany & Co.’s Lock is a sterling example, having been worn by both A-listers on red carpets and people with office jobs. Building on this success, the brand is set to launch a new collection around the motif in the fall, with global ambassador Jimin as the face of the campaign.
So for those tempted to step outside their comfort zones and wear more jewellery in the coming months, there is no shortage of designs to choose from. Whether it’s a safe, staid classic or a new wave statement piece, the newly initiated need know but one thing: choose your base material wisely. “Jewellery crafted from high quality materials such as sterling silver, gold, and platinum significantly impacts longevity and appearance,” Muller explains. And Hill recommends solid metals over plated and hollowed-out pieces. “If you’re going to invest,” he says, “make sure it will last.” It’s fine advice because one thing that’s sure to last is this new era of men’s jewellery
Featured Image: Alton Mason in Messika Move Link Collection. Photography: © Chris Colls.