Bling for Men Is No Small Trend

With sales growth outpacing the women’s segment, fine jewelry for the gents is hotter than ever.

May 22, 2024  |  Cathleen McCarthy
Stephen Webster jewelry image

Look down any red carpet in recent years and you’ll find celebrities breaking all kinds of taboos about men and jewelry, from gem-set necklaces and brooches to diamond bracelets. Has all this high-profile bling impacted men’s jewelry at retail?

While high jewelry for men is still an emerging market — it reached $7.3 billion in 2023, compared to $44 billion for women’s luxury jewelry — annual growth is now outpacing women’s high jewelry at 7.3% to the latter’s 4.6%, according to Euromonitor.

Men’s jewelry already represents 30% of retail sales at David Yurman, which has been building this segment since 2004. In fact, it’s “the fastest growing segment in our mainline jewelry assortment,” according to Lee Tucker, the company’s senior director of product design and development.

After 20 years, David Yurman jewelry is comfortably familiar to men. As Los Angeles stylist Lisa Cameron puts it, “you bring David Yurman into a man’s fitting, and it’s probably getting used.”

 model styled 
by Lisa Cameron image
Model styled by Lisa Cameron (Lisa Cameron)

John Hardy is close behind: About 25% of the Bali-based house’s jewelry is aimed at men. As of this year, it offers about 75 styles for a male clientele. While masculine elements like woven sterling chains are what anchor this selection, John Hardy has always leaned more bohemian, with designs like its iconic Balinese dragon and increasing shots of color in the form of turquoise and lapis.

Other brands that were dabbling in the category are suddenly getting serious about it. In January, Lagos introduced its first dedicated men’s collection, “Lagos for Men,” and last year, Louis Vuitton hired music artist Pharrell Williams to design a colorful new high-jewelry collection for men.

Daring to dazzle

British designer Stephen Webster, whose jewelry has a colorful goth vibe popular with rock stars, has always had a strong following among men. His core male customers these days, he reports, are “younger than they used to be, probably 25 to 40.”

That is the age group Cameron styles most often, The Bachelor franchise being her mainstay. “Many guys in their late 20s to early 40s are still on the fence about adding jewelry,” she says. “But because they see it more often now, I think it’s getting easier for them to take a risk.”

There’s less hesitation in the younger crowd, though. “Guys in their teens to early 20s…are really open to taking risks,” Cameron observes. “The crazier, the better.”

Retailer Brilliant Earth, which bases its brand on sustainability and transparency, is taking its cues from that youthful demographic. “We’re inspired by the risk-taking and bold self-expression of younger millennial and Gen Z customers,” says Ryan Atlas, its senior director of product design. Those customers are looking for variety, “whether it’s a personalized engraving, an ID bracelet, a pendant necklace, or a signet ring worn on the pinky finger.”

Engravable jewelry from Brilliant Earth (Brilliant Earth)

Quiet, bold and stacked

Today’s generation takes its cues from social media. “Micro-trends on Instagram, and especially TikTok, have an influence on style preferences, even for slightly more considered purchases like fine jewelry,” Atlas says.

One such trend is what he calls quiet luxury. “Quiet luxury can mean a classic Cuban-link bracelet or even a new interpretation of the tennis bracelet, such as our black-diamond 8.5-inch tennis bracelet.”
David Yurman’s popular Curb Chain collection, based on the classic Cuban link, has taken on a more streamlined silhouette, says Tucker.

“On the other end of the spectrum,” adds Atlas, “the ‘bolder is better’ trend translates to…rings of 5 millimeters [or more] in width.”

In that vein, “men are tuning in to stacking,” Tucker reports. “We’re also seeing them pull silver, white, yellow and rose gold bracelets into the same stack.”

Another trend he cites is “combining chunky chains and flashy statement bracelets with minimalistic styles like leather or beads.”

While Cameron is still stacking jewelry on female clients, she’s starting to see a shift among men to one or two standout pieces. “I think men are getting comfortable with the fact that jewelry…is getting bigger and bolder,” she says. “But we don’t have to go over the top to make a statement.”

Gender neutrality

Gender divisions in jewelry have begun to blur. Brilliant Earth has a page of gender-neutral rings. And David Yurman is offering “dual-gender” collections like its Sculpted Cable and DY Madison chains, sized for men as well as women.

Cameron frequently pulls from women’s brands to find unusual materials — including pearls — or “a chunkier look” for the men she helps dress. They rarely ask where she gets her jewelry. “A lot of my male clients like women’s rings,” she says. “It’s hard to find men’s rings out there.”

Last year, Webster launched a collection of brightly colored enameled rings in collaboration with rapper and singer Machine Gun Kelly. They quickly sold out. “I’ve seen just as many guys as women wearing them,” Webster says. “When I see that, I know the jewelry space is shifting.”

Shopping channels

While his customers in stores and showrooms are still predominately female, Webster says his online sales are about 50-50. “E-commerce is disproportionately higher for men than any other channel, whether it’s our retail or our wholesale business.”

In an effort to reach the male customer who’s buying online, Webster opened the No Regrets Lounge in Nashville’s Diamond Cellar in 2022. Along with having Webster’s jewels on display, the lounge offers live music and a lively bar scene.

No Regrets created exactly what Webster and Diamond Cellar owner Andy Johnson wanted: a male-friendly buzz. “If you’re a guy in Nashville, you’ll feel perfectly comfortable going in there,” Webster says. “It’s a bar!”

Image: Stephen Webster Thorn Addiction jewelry on model. (Stephen Webster)

This article is from the May-June 2024 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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Stephen Webster jewelry image Bling for Men Is No Small Trend

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