A brave new world opens up
Led by celebrities, such as Elton John, David Beckham and Brad Pitt, a new generation of men is increasingly looking at jewellery as a style differentiator, and waking up designers and brands to the opportunities growing out of this emerging niche market.
'Men are becoming braver in expressing who they really are, and are moving away from that cookie-cutter, corporate persona,' says Juliet Li, a New York-based stylist for men and women's vintage wear.
The core market is the 25 to 40 age bracket, according to Charlotte Juhl, business manager for jewellery at Georg Jensen, who says it has become acceptable to go beyond cufflinks and watches. 'Men prefer simple, understated and refined jewellery that they can wear casually on a daily basis,' she says.
Pendants and rings are also popular. Georg Jensen's sterling silver Victory pendant on a woven leather cord is a signature item for the Copenhagen-headquartered brand. The brand has also attracted a following for its custom-designed rings which allows clients to build their own rings from scratch; choosing from different types of gold to making the choice of whether to embed diamonds, ring thickness and other personal preferences such as engraving.
For New York-based brand David Yurman, dog tags, available in a range of materials from white gold with diamonds to sterling silver and everything in between, are a perennial favourite.
'Men wear jewellery because it helps them come across as confident individuals, not because it is part of a larger fashion trend,' says Evan Yurman, David Yurman's design director for men's jewellery and timepiece collections.
There is also a leaning towards mixing and matching. For its exotic collection, Yurman, who works with a variety of materials, has designed rings and cufflinks that feature the integration of black diamonds with textural elements such as sea urchins, alligators and rhino skins. He is working on a new collection that emphasises leathers and skins on pendants and bracelets.
Roland Buser, managing director of Chopard for Greater China, believes the appetite for individualism will fuel opportunities for creating more custom-made jewellery pieces.
'By drawing on our history, knowledge and expertise, we can cater to individual clients and respond to single orders,' says Buser. Singer Elton John has commissioned the brand to design and make special pieces.
Designing for men can, however, test the ablest of talents, and requires designers to first understand the motivation behind men wearing jewellery.
'Men are more conservative,' Juhl says. 'They want jewellery that is nice to wear, functional and subtle. Pieces have to be more day to day.'
'Men, typically, need just one piece of jewellery they believe in so in that sense, they can afford to spend more on that one piece, though it will probably be harder to find,' Li adds.
The task of crafting the right pieces is what most brands are focusing hard on, experimenting with different textures, materials and colours, in an effort to meet market demand.
Next year, Georg Jensen plans to develop more collections for men with the launch of a dedicated space for men in its stores.
'There is a lot more room to grow,' Juhl says.
'We will see the market developing steadily. We have not yet scratched the surface.'