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The Evolution of Men’s Jewelry: A Look Back in Time

Written by Anna Currell
February 14, 2024

In the past few years, men have started wearing more interesting, dynamic, and bold jewelry, from pearl necklaces to dangling earrings. But before you assume men’s jewelry is just a recent thing, did you know that it's been around for ages? While we’re seeing new expressive trends emerge these days, the concept of men owning, wearing, and appreciating jewelry isn’t new at all. In this article, we’ll explore the evolution of men’s jewelry, taking a closer look at the styles that have come in and out of the zeitgeist throughout history. 

Ancient Men’s Jewelry

Men’s accessories — for both function and fashion — can be traced back thousands of years. In Ancient Rome and Greece, men wore gold signet rings as status markers and to seal documents. Signet rings were often engraved with initials or a family crest and were unique to each person. Ancient Egyptian men of high society wore collars made of gemstones and precious metals. The early Aztec men wore heavy nose, lip, and ear accessories for special ceremonies. In China, jade was prized in men’s jewelry. From pendants to hairpieces, Chinese noblemen and rulers wore jade-laden jewelry. In fifth century England, noblemen would pin brooches onto their jacket lapels as decorative and personal adornments. Silver, turquoise, and copper have also long been popular materials in jewelry worn by Native American men — they’re still used in bracelets, necklaces, and pins to this day. As you can tell, the spectrum of styles, materials, and uses for men’s jewelry is wide in early history. 

Men’s Jewelry in the 20th Century

In the 20th century, men’s jewelry was simpler than many modern pieces, but it was still meaningful. While women’s wedding rings date back to Ancient Egypt, men only began regularly wearing these jewelry symbols of commitment during the 20th century. During World War II, more men began wearing a comforting reminder of their spouse while they were stationed overseas. 

In the mid-century period, popular men’s jewelry was limited to cufflinks for formal wear and wedding rings for everyday wear. Luxury watches also became a staple jewelry piece for men during that time. Brand name watches like Rolex and Omega gained international popularity as status symbols. The watch became an everyday accessory that was a way to show off a man’s style and wealth in addition to its functionality as a timepiece.

The next few decades brought some more varied pieces of jewelry into the mix. In this era of rock and roll, chains, leather, and medallion pendant necklaces were more popular. Men also started introducing stud earrings into their accessories. Rappers and hip hop artists sported heavy, gold, layered chains in the 1980s and 1990s, and leather and beaded bracelets also emerged as casual men’s jewelry options. In just a few short years, men’s jewelry expanded from basic and perfunctory to expressive and elaborate. 

Current Men’s Jewelry Styles

The beauty of fashion is that while trends come and go, we can always draw on the past for inspiration. Current men’s jewelry styles have reimagined styles from the past, and you might find that a lot of the historical trends we’ve looked at so far have recently reemerged. Current men's jewelry styles reimagine vintage and retro styles, for example, blending classic masculinity with modern flair. 

Brooches have also made a comeback, allowing men to add some sparkle and personality to suit lapels and blazers. Signet rings are also popular again, featuring family crests, initials, or simple decorative designs that lend an air of old-world sophistication. Another popular trend is layered chain necklaces; they offer a cool and edgy look, with metal textures like silver, steel, and gold adding bright metallic accents. 

The Rise of Genderless Jewelry

Along with the resurgence of some historically male jewelry pieces, we are also seeing more gender fluidity in jewelry. As the concept of gender becomes less rigid, and men today have more freedom to experiment with jewelry once considered strictly feminine. For example, pearls have been reclaimed as a manly adornment; more men are sporting pearl necklaces and bracelets for a refined preppy touch. And pieces like charm bracelets and stacked rings transcend gender. In a refreshing change of pace, many jewelry brands today market their pieces as genderless or unisex. 

Men have been adorning themselves with jewelry for thousands of years. While the trends and specific styles have evolved over time, the appreciation for men's jewelry remains strong. Today's man has a wide variety of options when it comes to accessorizing, from simple wedding bands to elaborate ear cuffs. As gender norms continue to relax, we can expect men's jewelry to only get more creative, expressive, and bold in the years to come. Want to create your own piece of men’s jewelry that lets you express yourself? Work with our team of expert jewelers to build a one-of-a-kind piece that’s entirely unique to you.

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