In recent years, the topic of men appearing in jewellery has garnered column inches as if males wearing precious objects was an entirely new concept. Timothée Chalamet in a vintage Cartier brooch? OH MY GOD! A$AP ROCKY in pearls? SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! The inexpensive silver chain worn by the character Connell Waldron in the TV series Normal People? Cue its very own Instagram account (and millions of salivating fans).
Obviously, men have been wearing jewellery for just as long as women. From the great maharajah’s of India who, at the turn of the 20th Century, traipsed across Place Vendôme in Paris to Boucheron, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and more with trunks of precious gemstones to be made into jewels, to the intaglio rings worn by ancient Roman men depicting various gods, to the neck-breaking mass of gold chains worn by the actor Mr T, to the gold jewellery of the Asantahene, the leader of the Ashanti people of West Africa (who at one point in history enlisted the help of a small boy so that he could rest his heavy, jewellery-laden arm on his head) — men in jewels is nothing new.
Granted, there was a time, particularly in the West, post-war or during a recession, when any display of wealth was disapproved of, that jewellery and precious metal objects were given for the war effort or melted down for cash. But slowly, men’s jewellery crept back in. And even earlier, when men’s jewellery wasn’t de rigueur, there was the Victorian craze for fancy tie-pins, bejewelled cufflinks and gold signet rings. The Catholic church itself has one of the greatest jewellery collections ever, granted most of it is now housed in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Today, men’s jewellery has crept out of the domain of footballers (hello David Beckham in diamond studs in the early noughties) and onto the red carpet on the figures of some of the most sartorially lauded men around. Michael B. Jordan, who remains coolly classic in what he wears, sported not one but two iconic Bird on a Rock brooches by Tiffany & Co. to the Oscars recently, the originals of which were designed by Jean Schlumberger in the 1960s featuring a golden cockatoo perched on enormous gems like tourmalines and peridots. The aforementioned Timothée Chalamet is a ‘friend of the maison’ that is Cartier, but word has it he genuinely collects vintage brooches, and the singer Labrinth is often seen wearing pieces like Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra necklace and multiple chains. If there’s another sign that male jewellery lovers are now aiming for slightly more toned down, curated affairs than the mega-bussdown looks of the noughties, it may be the fact that the multi-disciplinarian artist Pharrell Williams has offloaded much of his personal jewellery collection on a dedicated website Joopiter.com, where a giant, multi-gem set N.E.R.D pendant went for over US$2.1 million, and a set of personalised grills made from gold-set diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires went for just under US$21,875. Met Gala aside, are men starting to tone their jewels back again? Maybe — but these things are cyclical. This is not the end of men in pearls.