Are men tempted by rose gold? Are male consumers more experimental with their jewellery than ever before? We aim to answer these questions and more in this month’s focus on the market for men’s jewellery; from the latest trends to the best-selling pieces from the uk’s top-selling brands.
If there’s one thing the UK’s biggest men’s jewellery designer brands can agree on, it’s that the landscape for men’s jewellery has changed in the last few years, largely for the better. It may not be a drastic change, but a cursory glance at the trend-setting gent walking down the High Street will show a flash of leather wrist wear, a chunky silver signet ring and perhaps a carefully placed tie-pin.
Bracelets are growing in popularity for men, with Bobby White, Unique Men, Tateossian, Deakin & Francis and Babette Wasserman all noting an increase in interest across their leather, chain-link and metal options.
Bobby White’s eponymous creative director explains that the launch of his new fine-only web platform has enabled “dozens of new designs and combinations of new designs” to be launched for his male customers. He continues: “I have just launched a new tennis bracelet for men called Love Game and also for the first time ever a Motion bracelet. I have already started taking orders for both designs so men’s jewellery is still and will continue to be strong for my brand.”
The Motion bracelet is a particularly exciting development for White, as it builds on his best-selling Motion rings collection. The design may be over 10-years-old, but White believes it’s the “engineering aspect of the rings” that continues to tempt customers. He adds: “I think they [the customers] love the fact that it does something apart from just looking pretty. Rings have and will always be the king of categories when it comes to jewellery for both men and women.”
At Unique Men, leather bracelets are what have been generating the most excitement in recent months, with founder and director Daniel Ozel commenting: “A big trend over the last few years have been leather bracelets. This is a general trend in the market because leather is cool, trendy and also affordable. Some people buy a few leather bracelets and stack them together.”
He continues: “We are planning to expand the men’s collection and add new interesting concepts. We will add more plating colour options, like blue and brown, which are very popular in the watch sector. Further, we are working on an interchangeable concept which is quite exciting.”
Tateossian is enjoying the success of its newly launched bracelet line, Montecarlo, which features Alutex — a carbon fibre-effect covered in bright enamels, combined with woven Italian leather in six colour variations.
Managing director and founder Robert Tateossian, comments “Men’s bracelets and the stacking trend have been on the rise for the past few years and still continue to grow. In fact, men are beginning to gain sufficient confidence to stack not only leather bracelets, but diamond bracelets as well — though mostly black diamonds. There is also a clear pattern of men wearing talismanic style jewellery whether it is an evil eye or Shamballa bracelet.”
Similarly, Birmingham-based cufflinks specialist Deakin & Francis has garnered success with its silver torque bangles adorned with skulls, leather and bone motifs. Managing director Henry Deakin explains: “A few years ago it’s unlikely that either James [Deakin] or I would be wearing a bangle, but now depending on the day we wear up to three at once.”
Equally optimistic about bracelets is Simon Carter, creative director of Simon Carter Jewellery. His brand plans to double its offer of leather bracelet designs with stainless steel magnetic fastenings for AW15, proving just how popular the existing lines have been.
Continuing with bracelets and Babette Wasserman has noticed a surge in interest for its Demon Lobster designs made of double woven leather with black rhodium and gold-plated clasps. Chief executive officer and founder Babette Wasserman explains: “Leather is always a safe-bet for men’s bracelets but what makes the difference are the details: the way it’s braided, the colours and the shape of the clasp. We are expanding our bracelet collection as we have growing demand from the UK, but also internationally.”
Aside from bracelets, cufflinks appear to be the second most talked-about category, with mechanical themes and bright enamels proving popular. Wasserman notes her collections are “performing extremely well”, while Henry Deakin remarks that “cufflinks have remained strong in both the UK and Asian markets for some time now”.
He continues: “We launched a collection of sterling silver cufflinks with black spinel and they sold out within weeks so we decided to add seven new designs. Black spinel as a gemstone is perfect for jewellery as it’s durable and is actually more sparkly than black diamond. The designs in the collection range from classic enamel ovals with a black spinel border, to moving skulls, sharks and scorpions. Our customers love our quirkier pieces and the sharks and skulls in particular were very popular.”
At Tateossian, its Gear and Skeleton cufflinks continue to grow in popularity, directly tapping into a consumer base interested in mechanics and carinspired products. Robert Tateossian explains: “Cufflinks is our best-performing category and has always been our signature. Rings is a more difficult category due to sizing issues. Pendants and necklaces have been a dormant category for a while, but like all trends I suspect that this will become something fashionable in the near future.”
Unique Men and Babette Wasserman also do well with cufflinks; the former prefers mechanical designs with moving parts, while the latter highlights its enamel Button cufflinks in navy blue and brown. As Wasserman explains: “A cotton thread of a different colour is sewn in the actual cufflink, which gives a really cool and sophisticated look.”
From a retail perspective, Amazon. co.uk’s head of vendor management for jewellery and watches, Julian Exposito- Bader, seems to confirm that idea that men’s jewellery is a growing market. He remarks: “We are currently seeing strong sales from a number of men’s jewellery brands, in particular King Baby, Tateossian, Pyrrah and Kasun London. These brands all have a strong sense of style, which is why they are so popular — men want stand-out pieces this season.”
Leather is obviously providing the backbone of men’s jewellery, but what about the finish of precious metals? According to Kasun Ekanayake, founder and designer of Kasun London, sales of gold-plated and silver designs are a 50- 50 split with preference based on personality rather than a particular trend in the market.
In contrast, other brands are noticing clear preferences among consumers for certain types of finish, specifically gun metal, matte and the odd splash of yellow and rose gold. As Tateossian managing director Robert Tateossian explains: “Our anniversary collection of jewellery which has been executed in gun metal finish continues to attract a lot of attention as it is the trendy metal colour of the moment. Like our previous collections, we are always working with our workshops to introduce techniques, materials, and metal platings not used before. We are always trying to push the boundaries with our suppliers.”
This interest in gun metal has also been noted by Simon Carter, which saw its tiger’s eye beaded bracelet with a gun-metal skull sell out completely earlier this year. Similarly, Amazon.co.uk’s Exposito-Bader has noted a changing landscape of finishes, adding: “I’ve been seeing a lot of great collections with interesting finishes, including matte, aged steel and aged bronzed. In particular matte rose gold is a strong look for AW15. I’ve also seen a lot of new collections with a clean and minimal look.”
So, can rose gold ever really catch on in the men’s market? With such an explosion of rose-plated designs in the women’s jewellery market, is the average male consumer tempted? Emily Newman, one of the designers behind the Fred Bennett jewellery brand, comments: “Fred Bennett has become more refined over the years, with the younger dog tags simplifying into smarter pendants being one example. We have also been adding subtle textures to the silver and stainless steel, along with mixed plating. Last year we found that our designs featuring mixed metals of rose and yellow gold paired with stainless steel did really well, along with the slim line leather bracelets.”
Newman continues: “We have seen a rise in our silver sales recently, and with the popularity of mixed plating we shall be adding a selection of silver with interesting gold plated accents to our 2015 range. But leather is still very much a key material for Fred Bennett, together with touches of silver worked into leather designs.”
Bobby White has also seen the rising influence of ‘red gold’ in his collections, something which represents a big departure from the white gold and white diamond designs he was producing 10 years ago, and the matte and high gloss black-rhodium designs from five years ago. “Today I am featuring gold and red gold in my men’s designs,” he explains. “I love using black diamonds combined with the colour of red gold. It’s a combination working for me and my customers right now.”
Interestingly, brands are beginning to notice a blurring of the lines between men’s and women’s jewellery, with a unisex offer becoming more influential. As Kasun London founder Kasun Ekanayake explains: “For designs to be timeless and unisex, there always needs to be a balance when it comes to detail on jewellery. I come from an industrial design background, so, for example, when I design rings I don’t think about whether it is for a man or a woman. All I’m trying to do is design a product that is well balanced and that’s why I think it attracts both sexes.”
Fred Bennett designer Emily Newman adds: “I have seen a slight blur between men’s and women’s jewellery trends over the past six months, with influences coming from very similar places. One of the crossovers are signet rings — they are back in a big way, with women and men alike adoring their fingers.”
While signet rings and leather bracelets may be more daytime-friendly items, what’s going on in the world of occasion jewellery for men? Henry Deakin argues that the rising number of young men dressing in smarter attire is pushing more formal jewels into the spotlight. He explains: “The launch of the Kingsman film and collection that we were involved with also sparked a new style of smart dress for younger gentleman and we have seen an increase in sales of tie slides and lapel pins as well as cufflinks.” To expand on this success, Deakin & Francis will soon launch a collection of black spinel cufflinks with colourful synthetic gemstone centres.
“Adding gemstones is a great way to create luxurious designs, whilst at the same time maintaining a lower price point that the 18ct gold piece,” Deakin adds.
Robert Tateossian continues: “Men’s pins are on the increase too as a decorative way to style up a suit or blazer. Japan has been the first to acknowledge this trend. It’s a way for men to differentiate their style and be more of an individual.” Babette Wasserman is also in agreement, noting: “Men working in an office environment very rarely wore accessories in the past but now they do wear them with suits and don’t take them off during meetings. It gives them a very sophisticated look. Furthermore jewellery is no longer out of place in the work environment, even the most conservative areas such as the City of London. Look at the beard trend, for example, even that has made an appearance in the City of London.”
Simon Carter suggests that the rise in tie and collar adornments is probably down to the changing fashion landscape, especially the shift away from formal shirts. He explains: “As men wear double cuff shirts with cufflinks less than they did five years ago they’re looking for new ways to express themselves.”
Kasun Ekanayake is also of the opinion that lapel and tie pins are less about making a fashion statement and more about making a personality statement. He argues that “the basic structure of men’s formal wear (over the last 100 years) hasn’t changed at all, so I don’t think classic designs like the skull pin will ever really date”.
He continues: “I don’t feel there’s a need for overly designed tie pins, collar bars and cufflinks etc., which is why we keep our formal wear designs simple and classic. You can’t go too far wrong if you keep to this approach.”
HAS MEN’S JEWELLERY CHANGED?
We’ve arrived at the million dollar question. Professional Jeweller has encountered a largely positive response from brands, with the majority arguing that retail optimism and a renewed sense of experimentation has pushed the men’s jewellery sector along somewhat.
Henry Deakin has certainly noticed changes at Deakin & Franics, especially in terms of the colourways men are choosing for their cufflinks. “We have noticed that men have moved from the classic watch and signet ring to a wider selection of items, demonstrating more of their personality. We sell far more orange and purple owls than we sell brown. Our bestselling designs are always the colourful quirky designs such as the yellow and black bumble bees, bright red racing cars and multi coloured trout.”
Babette Wasserman is also of the impression that the men’s jewellery market has adapted over time, suggesting that “men are less shy about their accessories and generally more confident about their looks”.
She continues: “They have always loved watches but they now choose more and more to complement a nice watch with a stylish bracelet or even a stack of bracelets.”
Interestingly, Wasserman points to Prince Harry as a trendsetter in the men’s jewellery arena, highlighting that despite the conservative institution of the royal family he has been spotted wearing silver, beaded bracelets and leather necklaces to various events.
The rising number of outlets for men’s jewellery, especially the internet, is another reason why men’s jewellery is having a moment, according to Robert Tateossian. He muses: “There is no question that men are wearing a lot more jewellery today than they were five years ago. The offering of jewellery today is also a lot more widespread, with e-commerce websites, department stores and more traditional fashion retailers.”
However, others are expressing a measure of restraint when it comes to declaring a new wave in the men’s jewellery arena. Emily Newman at Fred Bennett comments: “I think men are becoming more adventurous with jewellery, especially with wristwear. But I would say there is still some way to go, as I don’t feel that the majority of men will have a big range of jewellery to go with different outfits in the same way women do. Although we are seeing an increase in our cufflink sales, as this is possibly an area where men will have multiple pairs for different coloured shirts.”
Similarly, Daniel Ozel of Unique Men says the men’s jewellery landscape may have changed “a little bit,” but consumers will always be snared by the ‘safe’ options. “They still don’t wear much jewellery and if they wear something then most people prefer the more subtle and understated pieces.”
Kasun Ekanayake takes a more pessimistic approach, noting: “I don’t believe men’s jewellery has changed at all. It doesn’t matter what you design 90% of men don’t buy jewellery (rings and pendants) themselves but most men would buy formal accessories.”
“My gut tells me the market is moving in the right direction, however I think the industry needs to do more to get more men interested in jewellery,” admits creative director Bobby White. “Look how many great and interesting designs there are out there for watches compared to jewellery in the men’s market. Now I know watches have a bigger appeal to the masses in this moment in time but men will and do wear jewellery, but only if it catchers their imagination. Let’s face it, no-body wants to wear a ring that looks like a steel washer on their finger but that is the sort of jewellery a lots of companies put out there for their men customers. Get interesting designs in your collections and you will get interesting customers.”
Amazon.co.uk’s Julian Exposito-Bader is also hopeful that more men’s jewellery brands will hit the market ready to shake things up a little bit. He comments: “As demand for men’s jewellery continues to grow I think (and hope) we will see more brands launching into the sector, which is exciting for me as a buyer — and will mean I can provide Amazon customers with more choice.”
Perhaps this suggests that there is still plenty of scope for a new and inspiring up-starter to tackle the market and succeed?
Two emerging brands that have caught the attention of Professional Jeweller in recent months, include USbased Nialaya and Sheffield-born Cutler & Bailey. In fact, the latter is so new to the market it is still a closely guarded secret, but we can reveal it fuses traditional jewellery-making techniques with the latest precision engineering to create a ‘modular’ jewellery system unlike anything currently available. Expect to see more at International Jewellery London in September.
If other brands decide to tackle the men’s market they will need something special up their sleeves, but anyone who can combine classic leather, unusual cufflinks, pops of colour, a few gemstones, a dash of rose gold and a scattering of tie pins, lapel pins and pendants is guaranteed to excel. If only it were that simple.
This article originally appeared in the June issue of Professional Jeweller. Read it online here.