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A recent commission from a longstanding client marked a first for London jewellery brand Lily Gabriella. “He said, ‘Why don’t we make a lapel pin, because I feel like it’s coming back,’” says founder Lily Gabriella Elia. So she designed an Art Deco-style rose and white gold piece with grey spinel, lapis lazuli and pink sapphire.
There has been a surge of interest in men’s jewellery in recent years. The men’s luxury jewellery market is expected to reach a global value of $6.5bn by the end of 2023, according to Euromonitor International, with its 8 per cent rise on 2022 outpacing the predicted 5 per cent annual growth in the larger women’s luxury jewellery sector.
However, jewellers are reporting growing demand specifically for accessories to style suits, as part of a wider shift to formal wear.
Sotheby’s held its first selling exhibition dedicated to men’s jewellery last month in New York. “While what I did with ‘For the Boys’ was trying to encourage out-of-the-box thinking with men wearing jewellery — bracelets, necklaces, things that maybe are not necessarily intended for men originally but can be worn by men — I think what we’re seeing now is very traditional guys even wearing a little tie pin or lapel pin,” says Frank Everett, Sotheby’s vice-chair of jewellery. “Stick pins, in particular, are quite affordable, accessible — there’s lots of them out there from the Victorian era into the early 20th century — and it’s a great way to dress up a suit.”
Jeweller Shaun Leane experienced such a rise in requests for lapel pins at his eponymous British brand this year that he is considering bringing out a range next year. “At the moment, I do it all bespoke and they’re one-off pieces,” he says. “That’s growing so much that it warrants the idea of now launching a fine collection.”
He attributes the interest to people “going out again” post-pandemic. “For me, and some of my peers and friends, there is a need to dress up again,” he says. “There is a need to celebrate . . . a yearn for occasion.”
Thirty-nine per cent of fashion executives expected occasion wear to be among the categories to experience the most growth this year, according to the State of Fashion 2023 report by the Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company.
London-based jeweller Darren Sherwood, behind brand Mr Sherwood, thinks there has been a “full 360”.
He says people were “fed up with wearing suits” pre-pandemic and so were “really happy” about the move to working at home. Now, he says, “Everyone’s really bored with working at home . . . they want to dress up and go back out.”
He says beautiful men’s watches often end up being hidden under a suit, and are now beyond many people’s price range, so lapel and tie pins offer “subtle ways that men can show off their style”. His characterful Winston bulldog and Baron cat cufflinks and pins attracted customer attention at last month’s Goldsmiths’ Fair in London, which inspired Sherwood to release new magnetic lapel badge versions.
Daniel Todd, buying director at Mr Porter, says it is unsurprising that, with the “return to more formal dress codes”, there is a “resurgence” in corresponding traditional accessories. Sales of tie bars on the fashion platform more than doubled between January and October this year, compared with the same period last year, with the introduction of new styles from Tom Ford, Dunhill and Paul Smith.
“The appearance of eye-catching, extravagant brooches across men’s tailoring on the red carpet this year explains the rise we’ve seen in searches for brooches too,” adds Todd.
Akansha Sethi designed a handful of bespoke high jewellery tie clips for clients (typically aged mid-30s to late 40s) during the whole of last year but more than 30, from demi-fine to high jewellery, between February and September this year. She is introducing four tie-clip and four lapel-pin designs to her eponymous brand’s collections today, in response to demand. While the selection will include two “more exaggerated” lapel pin designs, her enamel and gemstone tie clips will be “toned down”. “As much as you want it to be visible, it shouldn’t distract from the tie,” says the British jewellery designer. “It’s like the cherry on the top.”
Sotheby’s sold 11 lots featuring tie pins in Geneva earlier this month, with two early 20th-century gem and diamond examples from the collection of Boris III, Tsar of Bulgaria fetching SFr10,795, nearly six times the high estimate.
British jewellery designer Sophie Breitmeyer’s tie pins — some of which are repurposed from charms — are often bought for special occasions, particularly weddings, with a pearl design the most popular choice.
Inspired by a set owned by her father, Breitmeyer, who already sells cufflinks, is keen to design a dress set (cufflinks and dress shirt studs). Sethi’s first foray into men’s jewellery — with button covers, launched in 2019 — was inspired by her own father. She has found that bespoke versions of this alternative to cufflinks are popular for corporate gifting.
Leane says pieces such as the Talon earring and gold beetle lapel brooch he wears with a tailored suit “represent an identity, a personality” and provide a point of difference and intrigue at an event where men are similarly attired. “Men are waking up to the voice of jewellery and how it is such a great conversation starter,” he says.