By Melissa Pearce in Sydney
As the tenets of marriage are being debated by the Australian parliament, dynamic collections of men’s rings are leaving modest wedding bands in their wake.
Sydney-based Nadia Neuman of award-winning Mondial jewellery is exploring innovative wedding jewellery for men, after declaring her support for same-sex marriages by launching the Marriage Equality ring last year. The profits from the sale of these fine jewellery pieces go towards lobbying efforts in Australia. It is the first time an Australian luxury jewellery brand has publicly backed the issue, but the commercial potential in the gay wedding market is indisputable. In this inclusive environment, designers are enjoying responding to the style directives of gay men - a customer base that extends the range of men’s jewellery.
“Marriage equality is shifting the landscape of wedding jewellery, and gay men especially are expressing a desire for something new and exciting, both conceptually and aesthetically,” says Neuman. She is meeting this demand with unusual materials and techniques that imbue wedding jewellery pieces with a very contemporary masculinity. What attracts her to a material could be its inherent weight or sturdiness, for example Tantalum, which is exceptionally rare and is used in surgical instruments. Others include rare metals such as Tungsten, Mokume-gane and black ceramic, and finishes such as sandblasting, hammering and hand-carving, which put the spotlight on artisanal approaches that guarantee an inimitable, hand-crafted treasure.
Evoking the lore of samurai swords, Mokume-gane is a Japanese mix-metal technique from the 17th century, which entails rolling or layering different golds or metal alloys together, such as nickel silver, sterling silver, copper, titanium, platinum, iron, bronze and brass, and carving them to create a tough surface with a different-coloured patterned finish like a wood grain. An added allure is the fact that each ring is unique, with no two Mokume-gane creations the same.
Queensland’s Calleija jewellery uses monochromatic palettes of enamel with white gold for a modern feel, as well as luxurious yellow diamonds, either in a concentric band or as singularly set feature stones. Interestingly, in 2005, after two years of research and with guidance from a virtuoso diamond cutter, John Calleija announced his own unique diamond engagement cut, the Glacier, which was inspired by the best aspects of all the various cushion cuts.
Men are increasingly asking for precious stones in their wedding rings, such as rough diamond octahedra, black sapphire, Cognac diamonds and black diamonds. And even white diamonds are in the mix, though the stones won’t be centre stage like a sizeable solitaire, with the preference instead for subtlety or even hidden gemstones. Neuman agrees that hidden stones are leading the charge, with men still tentative about the bling quotient.
Baguette and carré-cut diamonds possess a more understated effect, with lustre trumping brilliance. The tendency might normally be to use baguettes as accents or side stones, but Calleija has chosen a baguette-cut diamond as a focal point of one statement ring and there is an architectural pleasure to its perpendicular lines.
Even pearls are now appearing in men’s rings. Linneys jewellery in Perth uses pearls with a special lustre and colour, ranging from darker-hued Tahitian pearls to lighter Western Australian options to enhance bespoke designs. “Men are definitely more inclined to wear pearls these days, particularly Australian South Sea pearls. The Australian white pearls sometimes have a silver undertone, which makes them more masculine and suits 18 carat white gold jewellery,” says creative director Justin Linney. The combination of gold and pearls works particularly well in the organic or nature-influenced shapes for which Linneys is well known.
With all creativity and consumer confidence in new men’s rings, it would be easy to assume ring styles associated with older epochs have been disregarded but, in fact, the signet ring is being reinterpreted too. The difference is that it is now pitched as a tangible symbol of a promise to another, rather than a declaration of social standing. Settings or decorative choices are likely to feature initials, family emblems or gemstones. And rose gold, currently a popular classic two-tone pairing with white gold, has a certain nostalgic hue that cannot be denied.