Among the most important, highly personal decisions in life—cat or dog, sparkling or still, gold or silver—how much is too much is up there. Especially when it comes to mens jewelry. Wear too much, and it’s distracting. Living in Italy did teach me that some non-smarmy men wear lots of jewelry, even the straight ones.
Wear too little jewelry, though, and you risk looking plain. Touches of metallic flash help add polish, and that’s essential for a complete look. Jewelry can be rotated and mixed up every day, worn daily, over and over, or reserved for specific occasions.
The most interesting brands making sparkly bits for men are doing so with an eye to subtlety and creativity, eschewing the bulky, blingy, gauche interpretations of mens baubles of years past. And, they come from all over the world.
The current zeitgeist of mens jewelry can be loosely grouped into a few prevailing aesthetics:
Peyote Bird, DINEH, vintage
Silver, etched designs with turquoise and other bright pastel gemstones in bold cuffs and chunky rings, mostly made in the American West.
This style is weathered and chunky, and fits well with more rugged outfits.
Or, leather and beaded bracelets, other non-precious gemstones, made in Bali, Japan. This look has a very bohemian, beachy, tropical feel.
Raw, Organic Shapes and Treatments
Rough and imperfect, with specific distressing and use of raw, unrefined gemstones.
I like that these pieces introduce traditionally female-only materials like pearl and diamond in a decidedly less flashy manner. Great if you like a little bling.
Chains, links, mesh, hinges, and secure clasps. For the darker dresser.
Simple but bold and bright. These designs verge on too plain for me, but I like that they’re etched and sandblasted, for a twist on “brushed or polished.”
These may also be good for the first-time jewelry-wearer.
Clean and Architectural
Delicate, edited, and understated. For the man not afraid to show a softer, more diminutive side.
Of course the Italians understand flair. Here, they make broad use of enamel, a practice by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans which dates well into antiquity to add visual stimulation.
Fashion should fun. These designers create niche but light-hearted designs, great to wear for unique occasions.
Retailers like MR PORTER, Matchesfashion.com, SSENSE, Farfetch, and Barneys are on the forefront of introducing many of these new brands to the marketplace, so they’re a good place to start your search.
Of course, there are local designers and jewelers to discover too, wherever you are. In San Francisco, Metier and Reliquary, both in Hayes Valley, are spots I love to browse. Chris Neff’s slight but just-different-enough sterling signet ring is one of my favorites. Reliquary has a great selection of western, enamel, and vintage mens jewelry.
It’s also worth taking a brief browse past resale sites like Grailed (Prada sterling silver FW17 Wolf Talisman) to make sure there’s nothing there that catches your eye.
Ultimately, whether it’s your first piece or your 10th, the right selection starts with an awareness of the options and a survey of the landscape.
Right this moment, mens jewelry is a huge growth area within the wider fashion industry. Not only are men dressing more casually for work, with more freedom to be expressive, but like a good pair of boots and a slick haircut, elegant jewelry is a sign of refined taste and proper presentation.
And if you choose wisely, your items could become future heirlooms that come to define your style legacy.
Post-script: My mens jewelry journey
Pictured above are items I currently wear and love. A ring from Bottega Veneta, purchased in New York. A Braun watch from my dad last Christmas. A Le Gramme silver cuff purchased online from MR PORTER several years ago, and a slinky chain-link bracelet given to me by my friend Paul.
Throughout the years, I’ve experimented with jewelry and watches. And, written about it previously. It was always interesting to me, even as a kid. My dad wore nice watches, a gold wedding band and a handful of different signet rings. My mom always had a watch, some rings, some necklaces, but most of all, a collection of great earrings.
Ultimately, I can’t really stand gold, though I’ve tried it. I prefer matte, textured, or aged silver. Too bright is distracting. I do however like color and a touch of gloss, hence the newfound obsession with enamel.
I was an early adopter of Le Gramme, long before it grew into the established business it is today. That bracelet has been with me through many moments, including getting locked out of my flat in Milan, during which time I attempted to pick the lock with the poor thing.
I had a great hammered-silver ring from Ippolita (“fatto a mano”), but lost it, along with a trusty Emporio Armani watch, in Chicago in 2015.
I know some people like costume jewelry and enjoy having a large selection to choose from, but like my feeling toward clothing and shoes and bags, the idea of cheap (material, construction) jewelry makes me cringe.
Like anything, pieces come and go. It’s the things that jump out at you, and come to you at the right moment when you have the ability to acquire them, that come to define and refine your personal style.
Mens jewelry I’m loving now:
Maria Black’s MOM (see above above) and Harald garnet signet rings (see above), both very affordable and fun.
The Parts of Four Sistema series, made with acid-washed sterling silver and raw slices of diamond. Totally interesting and different and glitzy without being tacky.
Various vintage tribal and enameled rings at Reliquary SF.
Fore more ideas, visit my mens jewelry Pinterest board.