After a dramatic year in history defined as much by BLM as anything else, he delivered a passionate speech about the Black Panthers: “They showed me how to love myself. And with that love, they overflowed it to the Black community and then to other communities. And they showed us the power of union, the power of unity.” The speech was one thing, the way he delivered it was another. He accepted his award wearing a double-breasted Bottega Veneta tux and a necklace of Cartier diamonds set in a simple but dazzling single row. They resembled pearls, but took that trope to the next level. His moment in the spotlight was illuminated by wit, irreverence and chic.
Kaluuya had read the room. Last year, Billy Porter performed at the Oscars in a necklace from Lark & Berry made of 500 lab-grown diamonds, set in what the designers called “a celestial supernova”. It was immense. No black tux for Porter – he went on stage in crimson silk and a gold duster coat. But a lot has happened in the long, long months between those two Academy Awards ceremonies, and style is shifting accordingly. When it comes to jewellery on men, things have got serious. The look is less Liberace, but absolutely liberating. The new approach is for everyday as well as posing on a step-and-repeat backdrop.
'The look is less Liberace, but absolutely liberating. The new approach is for everyday as well as posing on a step-and-repeat backdrop.'
While fashion designers continue to embrace a gender-fluid approach to their collections, a lot of new jewellery is following a similar path – neither overtly masculine (no chunky links, nuts and bolts) or floral. Rick Owens’s Grill Bracelet for this season is made from brass with a palladium finish, and has an architectural quality to it that would look great on any wrist. And last year Bulgari launched its B.zero1 Rock collection, taking the now classic architectural shape of that ring – inspired by the Colosseum in Rome – and adding edgy gold studs and black ceramic elements. Yes, it’s more aggressive and will appeal to more men than previous versions, but there’s nothing… Old Spice about it.
Things have changed in men’s jewellery, but it’s not quite the revolution it seems. Harry Styles might be Gucci’s darling, but his gender-fluid antics are aimed squarely at Gen Z. Who was surprised when Styles wore a pearl necklace or a single pearl drop earring on the red carpet? Certainly no one who has seen any of Elton John’s trove of jewellery, watched “Paris is Burning” or is familiar with Ray Petri’s imagery published in “The Face” during the 1980s. And there are whole books to be written about the history of jewellery in hip hop – from the old-school of Slick Rick with his myriad layers of gold chains, to Ben Baller’s recent collaborations with Takashi Murakami and Tyler, the Creator. Baller’s set of platinum and 18ct gold grills for Drake’s “In My Feelings” video (a major dental statement at $14,000) is incredible.
Whoever is styling Styles is still whip smart – for every feather boa and fur coat, there’s a touch of punk to the way jewellery is incorporated, as much as a nod to Vermeer or “The Naked Civil Servant”. Wearing pearls with men’s tailoring feels World’s End in a way, and when Comme des Garçons produced its second range of jewellery with Mikimoto recently, the pearls were punctuated with silver safety pins, and shot on male models in sharp suits. Again, smart.
For the longest time, gift shopping for men involved delving into the cufflink drawers of Mayfair tailors and Tiffany. But who wears French cuffs today? The cufflink is a collectible, but there’s so much more to explore and enjoy. Tiffany launched its first men’s collection in 2019, the same year that Rosh Mahtani added a Dante-inspired collection of pendants to her Alighieri brand. Recently, she threw some pearls into the mix for men. The cotton cuff is no longer the sole opportunity to accessorise.
'The cufflink is a collectible, but there's so much more to explore and enjoy.... The cotton cuff is no longer the sole opportunity to accessorise.'
As Daniel Kaluuya’s diamonds demonstrate, jewellery really isn’t gender specific. You can follow Timothée Chalamet’s lead and accessorise a sporty nylon zip-up navy jacket with a 1950s vintage ruby and diamond Cartier brooch – the juxtaposition and irreverence brings balance. Anything goes, as long as you style it with consideration. That can be athleisure offset with vintage gems, or a maximalist approach. When the producers of the 2019 Elton John musical biopic “Rocketman” wanted to recreate some of the musician’s classic looks on actor Taron Egerton, they went to John’s favourite jewellery house – Chopard – and borrowed millions of pounds worth of diamond rings, watches and necklaces. Go big or go home. Or be Elton and go big and get a really a big home.
Certain things have been primarily conceived for women, but adopted by men for years – a single Shaun Leane rose thorn earring, originally designed to complement early Alexander McQueen collections, is fabulously punk; and almost every leather cuff at Hermès works with anything.
But don’t overlook the obvious. From the Pope to Elvis Presley, the bling ring has solid provenance, and few jewellers do a big ring like Stephen Webster, whether it’s an 18ct gold ridged band with a Saul Bass-style “Vertigo” graphic in black on the front, or his Flipside Sovereign Ring, which you can wear two ways – flip the coin inset as you like, to show one of two contrasting motifs. Customise it with an initial. Have one on every finger, and throw in a vintage Van Cleef & Arpels or Fabergé gem, too.
There are no rules. Diamonds aren’t just a girl’s best friend.
Main image of Harry Styles: Alexi/Alamy Stock Photos