Tomes of style: the must-have jewellery book for men

From vintage lapel festoons to edgy diamonds, James Sherwood presents gems to add dazzle, razzle and attitude to the modern man's outfit. 

Bentley Skinner Victorian diamond star brooch

James Sherwood shares with us an extract from his newly-published book: 'Jewelry for Gentlemen' that offers men the chance to explore the jewellery options on offer from traditional tie-pins to some more individual forms of self-expression through jewels.  

'When I first approached Thames & Hudson with the suggestion that gentlemen’s jewellery be the subject of my fifth book for the publishing house, their only objection was that the spelling of ‘Jewelry’ be Americanised in line with house tradition. I thought it was a small concession to explore a big subject that was still under the radar despite the boom in men’s jewelry design worldwide. Not only was I seeing the great jewel houses such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Boucheron significantly increase their fine jewelry designs for men, I was also enjoying young male street style expressing itself with multiple pieces worn with elegance and ease.

Blackened gold and the bone-like shapes make this cabochon emerald Villian pendant by Solange Azagury-Partridge distinctly masculine, and a touch evil.

Men’s desire to wear jewellery hasn’t been so strong since the 1970s. It is a rare CEO or hedge-fund tycoon who doesn’t wear a wrist-full of friendship bracelets that demonstrate a life outside finance. The Alphas of the species are already trading up to bracelets, signet rings and pendants in yellow gold. Important pieces of antique fine jewellery now appear on the red carpets, worn by taste-making young actors and musicians such as Jared Leto, Pharrell Williams, Aldis Hodge and Alexander Skarsgård, who have not only revived classic dress studs and cufflinks, but also reinvented brooches, stick pins and chains as necklaces and lapel festoons.

 An elegant gold leaf brooch scattered with round brilliant-cut diamonds by Pierre Sterlé (c.1950) from Hancocks of London. 

Jewelry for Gentlemen celebrates times and tastes past that modern men have adapted and restyled for the twenty-first century. It also showcases pieces of jewelry that will be future heirlooms, as made by modern masters Shaun Leane, Theo Fennell,David Yurman, Ara Vartanian, Solange Azagury-Partridge and Stephen Webster. These craftsmen and women are supplying a demand as well as inspiring a young generation hungry for new ways to wear men’s jewellery.

See more men's jewellery here.

Published by Thames & Hudson, James Sherwood's new book is the author's first edition dedicated to jewellery.  

Although we should applaud them for keeping the flame of fine jewelry alive, hip-hop swag and rock-star bling are in the process of being refined as actors, musicians and sports stars graduate from the nursery slope of jewelry for gentlemen. At the turn of the twenty-first century men wearing earrings were still considered common or comedic. Thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo, Will Smith, David Beckham and Lewis Hamilton, diamond ear studs have become an elegant addition to black tie. More to the point, these early adopters have completely normalised the wearing of diamonds – be they real or synthetic – for all those millennials and snowflakes who are driving the great men’s jewelry revival.

I wrote and styled Jewelry for Gentlemen at an interesting time socially and psychologically. Perceptions of gender fluidity amongst the young generation question the dividing line between masculine and feminine. This I reflected in appropriating late 19th and early 20th century brooches undoubtedly set for women and reimagined them as lapel pins or ‘black tie brooches’. I also featured many pieces that are heavily gem set echoing the manner in which the Indian Maharajas revelled in display. The unspoken philosophy of Jewelry for Gentlemen was that a piece of jewelry is like a tattoo that a man can remove. Like a tattoo, a jewel reflects taste, personality and individuality. Unlike a tattoo, it can be changed on a daily basis.'

By James Sherwood

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