For the last five to seven years, trade press and jewellery bloggers have commented on the growing demand for men’s jewellery. While a good part of this growth has been due to an increasing number of men’s wedding ring purchases, men’s fashion rings have also seen a bounce. Bracelets, too, are in great demand. “If men are not buying a wedding ring,” says Israeli-born New York designer Eli Halili, “they’re buying a bracelet.” Bracelets are also prevalent in the offerings of designers such as William Henry, and the world-renowned David Yurman.
Men often gravitate to white metals (white gold, sterling, or industrial or “space-age” metals, such as stainless, tungsten, titanium) either alone or in combination with yellow gold, copper, bronze, leather, Kevlar, or rubber. They are drawn to textured or patterned metals, such as mokume gane, which is often patinated. Designs reminiscent of gears or technology are top choices.
But how does this all translate when men select stone-set jewellery?
For the most part, they choose understated gem materials: jades, black onyx, carnelian, lapis, and sponge coral.
14k white gold ring set with carved black jade, lapis, and 0.23 ct. round brilliant diamond. Photo courtesy John Biagiotti, Metamorphosis Design.
Black diamonds, raw diamonds, and diamond slices provide the same kind of dark, rugged, matte, textural look that men prefer in metals. Materials such as malachite, dinosaur bone, labradorite, tiger-eye, and tiger iron (a combination of tiger-eye, jasper and hematite), and matrix opal suit the desire for subtle patterns.
Sterling cufflinks set with round cabochon tiger iron. Photo courtesy Tacori.
22K Yelow Gold Ring with Trapezoidal diamond . Photo courtesy by Eli Halili.
Subtlety is found also in translucent to opaque varieties of gemstones such as aquamarine, or by giving blue topaz a moody look by adding a hematite backing, a technique used by Tacori. Sometimes men are willing to liven things up with brighter stones, such as turquoise, says California jewellery designer John Biagiotti.
18k yellow gold ring inlaid with Gibeon meteorite and set with 1.01 ct. round brilliant cut, orange/red sapphire. Photo courtesy John Biagiotti, Metamorphosis Design.
Sterling silver ring set with Sky Blue Topaz over hematite. Photo courtesy Tacori.
Interest in science and technology is reflected in the growing presence of meteorites in jewellery. These gray, iron-rich rocks from space may be set as gemstones, but they’re also used as an alternative metal usually combined with silver or gold bands in rings. Dinosaur and mammoth bone, too, show up frequently. “When men see something like meteorite or dinosaur bone, it triggers their childhood fascination with things outside our normal existence,” says Biagiotti.
18k yellow gold ring with bands of dinosaur bone and Gibeon meteorite, set with 0.35 ct. round brilliant diamond. Photo courtesy John Biagiotti, Metamorphosis Design.
Gemstone preferences tend to vary by region, reports Francis Barthe, a jewellery manufacturer in Bangkok. European men lean toward dark, hard stones—such as black diamonds, black sapphires, and black spinels—in small to medium sizes. In the US, the trend is also dark, but includes dark green stones such as tourmaline and diopside. Halili says men balance the darkness with gold and the subtle sparkle of black diamonds or diamond slices. “Men really like dark, sliced Burmese sapphires,” he adds.
European style men’s ring set with blue sapphire and diamonds. Photo courtesy Francis Barthe.
European style men’s ring set with square cut diamond. Photo courtesy Francis Barthe.
Jewellery, for many Asian men, says Barthe, is a sign of success or wealth, and their choice of gemstones tends to be a bit more dramatic: rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and white diamonds. In a line Halili sells into South Korea and China, iridescent stones, or those with phenomena, such as labradorite and moonstones, are popular. “They don’t go for matte stones. They do like to have a little bit of sparkle,” he says.
22k yellow gold ring set with round faceted labradorite. Photo courtesy Eli Halili Jewelry.
Australian men, often choose large sapphires in all colors, and prefer Australian stones, if possible, says Barthe.
Men’s 9k yellow gold ring set with yellow sapphire and round brilliant cut diamonds. Photo courtesy Francis Barthe.
Men’s 9k yellow gold ring set with blue star sapphire and round brilliant cut orange sapphires. Photo courtesy Francis Barthe.