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Articles from MEN'S JEWELLERY (163 Articles)


Metal and manly

After years in the wilderness, male jewellery is attracting more attention, and this time it's not only from the fashion forward. TALI BOROWSKI reports.

Throughout history, men have always been interested in jewellery: in ancient times, precious adornments were used to signify rank; in the Middle Ages, bejewelled weaponry and signet rings were the latest rage.

But over the last hundred or so years, much of the jewellery available for men has inherited an effeminate connotation that the trade has worked valiantly to overturn.

And such effort appears to be paying off. While men's jewellery sales previously comprised a tiny fraction of the overall market, more than half of the retail and wholesale businesses interviewed for this story are reporting double-digit sales. Furthermore, US jewellery consultancy firm Unity Marketing has reported that sales of men's fine jewellery in the US virtually doubled in 2006 to $US6 billion.

"There has been definite growth in recent years," says Ciara Ryan, designer, Pastiche, where approximately 20 per cent of sales to retailers involve men's jewellery. "We have seen strong development in product availability and the use of new materials."

And while sales used to be limited to on-trend urbanites, the tide seems to be turning in bringing male jewellery to the mainstream. Today, men are not only more aware of fashion trends, but more conscious of making sure they adhere to them. As personal grooming has become a staple for the modern man, so too has personal adornment.

"Today's men are much more open to expressing themselves and wearing what they want," says Phil Edwards, owner, Duraflex Group Australia, distributors of the Bonnard jewellery range.

Jenny Dodd, NSW sales representative at men's jewellery specialist Cudworth Enterprises, agrees: "Australian men are becoming more accepting of fashion trends, more fashion-conscious and are coordinating their jewellery and dressing a little bit more."

The Australian jewellery industry has responded in kind, with designers and retailers more responsive to the virtually untapped customer-base at their fingertips.

"Women have always had more available fashion and jewellery products," Ryan says, "but we have now started to see a strong increase in the products presented to men in order to distinguish themselves and express their individuality."

Rings and cufflinks stand-out as the biggest sellers, with bracelets and pendants not far behind. And stainless steel remains the most popular material for men's jewellery, not only because of its toughness and suitability for 24-hour wear, but also because of its colour.

"Stainless steel is a good product for men because it's a very durable product that doesn't tarnish like silver," Dodd says.

"Guys will go for silver, there's no doubt about that," adds Christopher William from NSW store Christopher William, "but very few go for the yellow colour."

Comfort is also important. Melbourne design house MDT Design ensures men's rings are a minimum of 1.8 millimetres thick - a factor that makes a big difference to the male consumer, whether they realise it or not, according to sales manager Randall Riley: "Anything we do for men is thicker," he says. "That's what helps make a lot of men comfortable wearing a piece of jewellery."

Designers and manufacturers are also employing different textures and metals to entice the new male consumer, with titanium, resin, carbon fibre and rubber all featuring heavily.

Bruce Tully, creative director and partner from Queensland's Depazzi Jewellers even goes so far as to use crocodile, stingray and snakeskin to adorn his designs, which he says are a big hit with his male customers.

"We get a lot of demand from people that want something different," Tully says. "We put the emphasis on the raw material and the solid structure and that's definitely appealing to men."

Ryan believes that "there is a definite break between more traditional, male-specific jewellery like cufflinks, tie pins and watches and more modern items like men's bracelets, pendants and necklaces".

She says it's the older clientele that prefer the function-focussed traditional items, but it's the on-trend items that are really seeing a sales surge.

"Pieces no longer have to fulfil function in order to be desired," she says.

And it seems that the younger market has taken up this trend, having traditionally used jewellery to define their social circle, or as an expression of their personalities or moods.

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"Jewellery is used to identify with a specific group of people, which is particularly important and relevant when considering younger target markets," Ryan adds.

For Edwards, the interest already being shown to German jeweller Thomas Sabo's unisex range - available from Duraflex Group Australia and featuring skull rings and daggers - indicates that the market is aimed squarely at the 18 to 30 year olds; however, he admits it may change once the current generation of jewellery consumers gets older.

"If they've been brought up to be comfortable wearing those sorts of things, then they may forever feel comfortable wearing those sorts of things. It may grow with that generation as they grow older," Edwards says.

Riley also notes that embellishment tends to be more popular with younger men, whether as diamond-set rings or colour embedded in cufflinks. And it's not only design, but the jewellery's position on the body that distinguishes young from old.

"In my era, the gentleman wore a wedding band and on their little finger on their right hand, wore a signet ring," Riley explains. "It's the same now, only changed. Young men are wearing rings on different fingers and individualising the piece to them."

Marketing and advertising are also playing a part in encouraging male consumers to purchase jewellery for themselves. Once considered solely a female domain, men are now being targeted in fashion magazines, with the jewellery industry recognising the market's sales potential.

"Worldwide, it has become more fashionable for men to wear jewellery. Where before it has been a little bit neglected, now there's money to be made," says Thomas Meihofer, director of West Australia's Thomas Meihofer Jewellery Design.

"The world's becoming smaller, men are travelling more and they're seeing that the European men are very stylish and very conscious of how they look," Riley adds.

Celebrity endorsement has also helped move men's jewellery into the mainstream, with identities such as soccer star David Beckham making male adornment less frightening.

"Men are no more immune to media saturation and the suggestive power of advertising than the average woman, so the increase in male-driven campaigns is certainly having an effect on fashion and jewellery sales," Ryan says.

So if the men's jewellery boom has hit, does that mean the stigma of male self-embellishment has been eradicated for good?

Not really, according to William. He believes that Australian men are still a fair way off their European counterparts when it comes to what they're willing to wear in the public arena - a fact that will always restrict the sale of men's jewellery in Australia.

"Men in Australia tend to think wearing jewellery is a feminine thing," he says. "They're a little bit narrow on that level."

Edwards also notes that there seems to be a price-consciousness in the men's jewellery market, with men disinclined to spend large amounts of money on themselves. "While men are willing to explore the concept of wearing jewellery, they're aware of the price and they're not about to tear up a lot of money on it. They're buying it for today, not to have forever," he says.

Yet even if men don't have, or won't spend, the money on fine jewellery for themselves, or still aren't comfortable with wearing it, Meihofer believes adornment will continue to grow among the masses: "Guys are allowed to wear more stylish clothes, they can look after their skin, spend money on manicures, so why not jewellery?"

As more and more men continue to explore their jewellery options and as more males accessorise their outfits with a ring or bracelet, chances are others will follow the emerging trend.

"I think we're in a society now where men can speak their minds or wear those sorts of things" says Edwards. "They're more open to ideas."

The men's jewellery market will most likely never reach the dizzying heights seen in women's jewellery, but that doesn't mean it can't be a nice little earner for retailers looking to add something different to shelves this year.

In doing so, look for liberal use of colour, titanium and varying textures and finishes in this year's trends. Additionally, natural materials such as wood and bone, as well as confident design, are sure to entice.

Tali Borowski
Ellendale Diamonds Australia

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