Timothée Chalomet and Harry Styles are hardly strangers to flamboyant fashion, but recent appearances have seen them emerge as the heartthrob faces of a new movement in men’s jewellery.
Synthesizing the chunky chains and ice of hip hop style, the quirky bracelets and rings of European sprezzatura, and the androgynous glamour of gender-fluid pioneers such as Billy Porter and Ezra Miller, men’s red-carpet jewellery is now at its most fabulous since Beau Brummell chased frivolity from Regency London.
Two hundred years on from the famous dandy’s reign of style, the exquisite gems and dramatic diamond clusters created by the likes of Cartier, Boucheron and Bulgari are still traditionally the domain of women, brought out of the vaults for awards ceremonies and galas. But for the last few years, menswear has enjoyed a widening vocabulary not just in fashion but in jewellery too, making the Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewels sale on 7 December an exciting hunting ground.
Take rings. You can draw a straight line from the simple silver hoops of the Ancient Sumerians 3000 years ago (in modern Iraq) to the stern gold signet rings of the Victorians and the ultra-masculine slices of titanium, carbon fibre and steel favoured in recent years.
Yet the hands of today’s fashionable men have more in common with the bejewelled fingers of kings, aristocrats and bishops – or even Game of Thrones characters.
Whether piled on, like Nick Jonas channelling GoT’s Littlefinger at the Met Gala a couple of years ago, or spread across the hand like Harry Styles in his Watermelon Sugar video; sharp and simple, like Daniel Kaluuya’s diamond pinky ring at this year’s Oscars, or bold and bright, like Big Sean’s gold, mint garnet and Paraiba tourmaline signet at the Grammys, the common theme is gems. Big, unapologetic gems. The sort that demand to be reverently kissed by a king’s humble subjects.
The Magnificent Jewels auction has no shortage of such rings, and though care should be taken with sizing, a glowing Muzo emerald and yellow diamond or Bulgari 14.01ct cabochon ruby and diamond pinky ring could hold an outfit alone, with no need to stack up the rocks.
It’s not just rings, though. From red carpets to album covers to catwalks, men are embracing more traditionally feminine items including diamond-encrusted necklaces, brooches and earrings, and wearing them with everything from crisp form-fitting suits to relaxed, fluid shirts – or even blouses.
You don’t have to look far back to find precedents. Think of the New Romantics of the 1980s and the glam rock icons of the 70s, from Bowie to Bolan. Even the more restrained fashions of the Victorians and Edwardians featured lapel pins, while brooches – or fibula – have been used to fasten clothing since the Bronze Age and were beloved of Vikings, Medieval warriors, Tudor courtiers and Regency dandies.
Now diamond- and gem-set brooches are being used in place of a lapel pin, as a precious boutonniere, or even to clasp a starched cravat, as Lewis Hamilton showed at last year’s Oscars in his Bridgerton-style outfit.
A compact piece, such as the Van Cleef & Arpels diamond flower or a stunning c.1925 clip by J.E. Caldwell, would work well for Hamilton’s requirements, but for a more modest lapel try a playful take on tradition with a floral sprig or another natural motif. The Van Cleef & Arpels culture pearl and diamond flower would cascade nicely down a dark lapel, as would the David Webb diamond flower – a look worn by everyone from Antonio Banderas to (of course) Billy Porter.
Chalamet wore a Cartier diamond and ruby brooch on the chest pocket of a workwear-style Prada look, giving the impression of an extremely glamorous medal on a uniform, an effect that might equally be achieved with the symmetrical lines of the Tiffany emerald and diamond brooch or the spectacular David Webb cross brooch.
Alternatively, the Cartier diamond, emerald and sapphire dragonfly or the extraordinary René Lalique enamel, diamond and ruby swallow in flight would offer a dynamic highlight to a structured suit.
Necklaces, too, are increasingly popular. Not just the fine gold chains or beaded festival-style pieces already being worn, but pearl and gem-set pieces recently worn by, for example, Pharrell, spanning a buttoned-up shirt collar, Finneas O’Connell, Shawn Mendes and even the usually low-key Taika Waikiki.
At the 2021 Met Gala, singer Giveon teamed the Bulgari Serpenti necklace with pearls – and, of course, Harry Styles is now synonymous with the men’s string of pearls.
Styles has taken pearls even further, gleefully causing a stir by wearing a single pearl drop earring. Yet it’s hardly a look without precedent. The more cutting-edge fashion editors and influencers have been sporting pearl earrings for some years, and model and artist Henry Kitcher is widely credited as the original boy with a pearl earring.
The most famous male pearl-wearer, though, is Elizabethan explorer and style icon Sir Walter Raleigh, painted wearing a single drop with a distinctly piratical air. And while a dramatic diamond and pearl drop earring will make a splash, a more elaborate Van Cleef & Arpels ruby and diamond ear clip evokes the Tudor aristocracy even more effectively.
It is, perhaps, the single but extravagant earring that best defines the current movement in men’s jewellery. While the pile-it-up, more-is-more style of Billy Porter has laid the groundwork, and there are plenty of examples of layered-up necklaces and rings, the combination of a beautifully cut suit with a single, exceptional piece makes this a trend will happily transition from A-list red carpet to real life. And that means it’s a look to invest in.