Friday, July 2, 2010


We buy it for the ladies in our lives. Some of us cultivate an appreciation of the good stuff, but it is the domain of the ladies. Except when it is not.

The Rules
Men should wear jewelry sparsely, if at all. Make your jewelry selections exquisite and meaningful. Here are a few items of appropriate gentlemen's jewelry:

  • Wedding Ring – Always appropriate. The ideal selection is a rich, dark gold band, unadorned by detailing: simple, classic, elegant. In that form, it is truly timeless. Unless your beloved insists on it, there is really no need to have matching rings with your spouse – that which makes a lovely ring for a lady does not necessarily work for a gentleman, and understatement is the best route for a man. That said, my own wedding ring is an Irish style claddagh in silver.
  • Military Decorations – Do not succumb to the temptation to wear miniature medals on dress clothes, but boutonnière representations of significant medals are always appropriate.
  • Cuff Links – Another place where men may wear the bling. Cuff links are no longer reserved for the most formal of occasions and they may dress up an otherwise casual outfit for an evening on the town. Again, keep selections fairly simple and classic. Toggle links with chain connectors are beautifully understated as are simple silk knots. Another thing not to be missed are the vast quantities of antique cuff links available for a song on eBay.
  • Tie Clasps and Tie Tacs - Some current style gurus have stated that these decorations are antiquated and make current clothes look dated. My personal belief is that whilst they are a bit old style, on an otherwise current and elegant rig they still look classic and elegant. Though this is going to be a bit of a mantra, old is better than new, so use whatever it is that Dad or Gramps left you.
  • Signet Rings – A single signet ring on the ring finger of the right hand is beautiful and appropriate. Normally engraved with a classic monogram, these are fantastic accessories. If a club ring is worn, this is the piece of jewelry that will go.
  • Fraternal and Club Jewelry – This comes most commonly as rings but also in the form of tie-clasps and tacs, lapel pins and cuff links. It is easy to get carried away with club jewelry, especially in organizations like the Masonic Lodge where there are numerous subsequent lodges, each of which has its own traditions and symbols. The rule of thumb is to keep your organizational jewelry to a single piece. One outfit, one club – that is all. I have seen some grand old Masons who have rings on every finger and thumb, tie tacs, cuff links and multiple lapel pins. They end up looking very wrong. Choose your club jewelry carefully and keep it simple.
  • Belt Buckle – Sometimes called a compression buckle, these go on 1" belts, sometimes called straps. The belt does not have holes in it, and the buckle is invariably sterling silver and is quietly engraved with the owner's initials. Or his father's. Or grandfather's. These buckles are getting harder to find, but they will likely have them at the best jewelry store in town or at the better quality men's stores. I am fond of the Reed & Barton engine turned model. This is part jewelry and part a simple requirement for gentlemen's clothing. You will likely have one for your whole life, so do not skimp.
  • Wristwatches – Like cuff links, wristwatches can end up as a major collectible for gentlemen who are so inclined. Unless you are collecting wrist watches, however, these do not need to be expensive. If your dad or grandpa gave you one, it may be ideal. Old Hamiltons and Elgins are great as are vintage Timexes. Mechanical examples are generally better choices than electric, and stay away from digital at all costs. For a dress watch, a simple and slim example in gold is ideal. For sportier wear you can go with something a bit chunkier, but do not overdo it. An old Rolex oyster is great. Unless you are a marine biologist, a Submariner may be a bit too much.
  • Fountain Pens – Completely unnecessary, fountain pens, whether new or antique, are great jewelry for gentlemen. Carried in the shirt pocket or the inside pocket of the jacket, these are definitively understated. I have an old Parker blue diamond 51 and a big, black senior Duofold that I love for their understatement.
  • Pocket Knives – Again, carry just one, and grandpa's carbon steel model that he carried in the Great War is ideal.
Some other options are things like old pocket watches and fobs. Just about anything that came down from your grandpa or a great uncle is an elegant touch. Do not overdo it, and be sure to wear whatever it is that you are wearing correctly. Pocket watches go in vests, not in the breast pocket of your suit jacket a la Gomez Addams.


A few things to avoid:

  • Heavy Gold Chains – Unless you are Tony Soprano or a Greek investment tycoon, avoid the gold chains.
  • Ear Rings
  • Anything Else That Requires a Piercing
  • A Gargantuan Belt Buckle – Unless you won it legitimately, stay away from gigantic trophy style buckles, even on jeans. If you did come by it legitimately, put it on a really fine and appropriately wide belt and keep it for jeans.
In Short
There are many types of jewelry for gents, just keep it understated and tasteful. Old is generally better than new, and family heirlooms are the best.