Jewelry for men has undergone a long process of evolution through the passage of time signifying the importance of material adornments in the appearance of men.
In the past, it has conveyed a lot more than being mere fashion statements. They could range from being a symbol of power and wealth to icons of military practice. Even though the wave of modernization has swept away the common practice of men wearing jewelry for purposes other than aesthetically accessorizing their look, traces of bejeweled men from history are etched in the ground indefinitely. It is probably because of this long-standing association between men of stature and jewelry that powerful men even today are seen sealing there look with some article of jewelry.
If that raises any doubts, royal heirlooms and signet rings worn by the royalty can be seen as the biggest example of this. It is hard to avoid Prince Charles’ signet ring on his left little finger as he chose to make a bold statement in the family tradition of the royals.
It would be safe to say that men’s jewelry at certain points in history have included a large variety of things including necklaces, rings, wreaths, garlands, cuff links, watch chains and various kinds of brooches.
Here is a trip down the lane ornamented with ancient jewelry worn by men.
Even though there is little academic documentation done on evidence, but historians believe that the earliest forms of jewelry designs depended heavily on patterns and products of nature. This included parts of both flora and fauna such as flowers and leaves as well as animal bones.
North Africa was discovered to have preserved pieces of jewelry made out of shells with holes drilled at the center. These perforations possibly allowed ease of wear by strewing a string through the hole and tying at the back. It is strange to see how shells dating back 820 centuries are replicated today in jewelry and have seeped into modern fashion while being blissfully ignorant of its past.
Ancient Greeks would also express reverence to the entire pantheon of gods by wearing flower wreaths on the head and decorated garlands on the shoulders, with each flower or branch representing a different god. A few examples from ancient Greek jewelry designs were oaks which stood for Zeus, laurels which represented Apollo, and grapevines which symbolised Doinysos.
Not just that, but specific gods reflected through their iconic symbols were reserved for men holding different offices. For instance, military personnel and public servants use to wear laurels whereas consuls and senators adorned themselves during parades and ceremonies using olive leaves. It is not hard to guess that all these embellishments were a statement of power and money even though the worth of these jewelry articles was not measured in monetary terms.
- Ancient Chokers
It was only after the advent of metal jewelry that attention of jewelry makers shifted to precious metal like silver, gold, iron, and copper. Some of the most valued remnants of metallic jewelry are found in Ireland which was ruled by a Celtic government during the metallic era: Iron and Bronze Ages. Pieces produced by the Celts are displayed in museums all across Ireland, UK and mainland Europe to show examples of excellent Celtic craftsmanship still survives.
Interestingly enough, since the Celts valued material adornments a great deal, in their culture the intricacy of any piece would be directly linked to the stature of the person;—the greater the details, greater the power!
The hierarchy of metals laid down during those times still persists today. Since silver and gold were shined the brightest and were a challenge to carve, they were reserved for the upper-class nobles and aristocrats while the common gentry adorned themselves with copper, iron and bronze.
Celtic jewelry wasn’t just rich in intricate details but also comprised of some designs that remain unmatched till date. One unique piece of Celtic jewelry was the Celtic Torc. It was a circular neck piece indented with an aesthetically placed gap at the front making it an unclosed circle. Another masterpiece was the lunula which was a crescent shaped necklace, larger than the torc, with the tapering ends closing at the back of the neck. The Celts did not forget the all-time favorite brooches which during the Iron Age were much larger than they reduced to being ages later during Post Medieval and Early Medieval periods.
Even though Celts and Vikings used to have brooches for fastening cloaks, the brooch-fashion flourished during the Early Medieval period in Britain and Ireland. They were made with a long pin attached to a ring around which the pin could move. This ensured that the cloth that the brooch was attached to wasn’t permanently pierced. It was everyday practice among the Vikings to wear brooches by not just women but also men!
The trend of wearing brooches specifically among men transported to the Victorian era during the Post Medieval period as well where even though the male fashion trends had evolved from the older, more bedazzled one, the custom still persisted.
While propriety and social sensibilities were a few dominant values of the Victorian society, it is almost a compulsion for a well-dressed reputable man to accessorize his daily wear with some essential jewelry.
Even though it was considered decent for men to keep their embellishments at bay and not steal the attention from women, anomalies who chose to dress with a bold abundance of jewelry were called fops. Brooches had evolved into cravats or breast pins which were used to hold a scarf or ascot. Jewelry for fastening neck ties were also widely used by the gentleman.
A gentleman’s watch chain was the last limit to which societal bounds allowed self expression in males. The design was refined to become simpler. Hair mementos strewn into watch chains and hung around the neck were also considered decent accoutrements even though they connoted secret affairs.
Brooches were also used to show affiliation with a sport. For instance, a design based on a boat and oars was emblematic of an interest in rowing. Fishing roads, feathered lures, and sports equipments like tennis racquets and bicycles made their way into jewelry as well and continue to do so till today.
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