For decades it’s been a particularly damning insult. Who’d want to be known as a ‘medallion man’? The label says a lot about men’s traditional attitudes to wearing jewellery — it’s either effeminate or somehow lugubrious and lecherous.
However, in the last few years, a casual glance at the average male wrist shows that a revolution is underway, certainly where bracelets are concerned. In particular, the Shamballa bracelet, with its hippy-chic masculinity is fast establishing itself as a male accessory that’s as acceptable as a signet ring or cufflinks.
The fact that brothers Mads and Mikkel Kornerup came from a family business in the construction industry before they set up Shamballa Jewels might be one reason for the masculine appeal of their bracelets. Mads oversees design (following a career as a photographer in New York), while Mikkel looks after production.
Inspired by the mythical kingdom of Shamballa, said to lie in the Himalayas and to be “a place of peace and tranquillity”, according to ancient Sanskrit writings, the jewellery house’s male bracelets feature striking precious stones in black, white and strong primary colours. Set in intricate macramé, they manage to blend a luxurious feel with an organic simplicity, in keeping with current trend for pared-back, no-frills luxury.
“Guys often buy them for a special occasion such as their wedding day,” says Mads Kornerup. “They like the fact that they can have something that’s similar to what their partner is wearing but is still very clearly masculine.” Male customers also appreciate the opportunity to get involved in the creative process, choosing the stones and bindings themselves. “There are so many options with our piece and bracelets are great for men because they’re quite discreet but you can also make a statement about your personality with them,” he adds.
A decade ago there was only a very small market for men’s jewellery, says Stephen Webster, long famed for his rock-star style and rings, bracelet and pendants with their raunchy, Gothic look: “When we first started producing men’s pieces the shops didn’t even have anywhere to display them.” Bracelets have enjoyed increasing demand recently, he has found.
“Bracelets are a big trend at the moment for us, especially with ceramic-coated steel,” Webster says. “They’re manly but still smart and they’re scratch-proof, which guys really appreciate.” Webster’s male consumers like bracelets and other jewellery that feature unusual materials, partly because they look different but also because of their curiosity value, which gives men something to talk about. His collection currently includes a silver bracelet with a double wrap of matt-black onyx beads and another in blackened sterling silver with a snake clasp.
“We’ve also noticed that men like anything with movement and mechanics,” says Webster. “I think it comes from watches. Male watch-buyers love things such as a double tourbillon, whereas women are more interested in what the watch looks and feels like.”
The Italians could be credited with kick-starting the current trend for male wrist adornment, with many a smartly suited Italian businessman (notably Tod's titan Diego Della Valle, whose brand does a brisk trade in luxe leather takes on the male bracelet) sporting a multicoloured selection, contrasting the formality of their attire.
Armenian-born, Rome-raised Robert Tateossian, known for his strikingly modern, luxurious pieces has recently introduced new bracelet styles using white, champagne, black and blue diamonds in 18k gold settings, and also knotted into macramé bracelets. Where bracelets are concerned, it’s a case of the more, the merrier, he points out.
“Men’s bracelets and the ‘stacking’ trend have been on the rise for the past few years and are still continuing to grow,” he says. “At Tateossian, we’ve seen a significant increase in sales and so we’re constantly introducing new styles — diamonds for men have been popular.” Also very successful have been a silver lobster ID bracelet, a soft Italian leather two-strand bracelet with sterling-silver lobster clasp, which is available in either a bullet, cross or ID-tag option. Customers have ranged from businessmen to artists.
Tateossian’s advice when it comes to wrist fashions for men? “Buy something that makes you feel comfortable,” he suggests. “Also make sure that you can easily put your bracelet on and take it off.”