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a brief history of men and their jewellery
For the past few months I have been looking obsessively at men hands, necks and occasionally their ears.
I almost missed a bus staring at sovereign, signet and keeper rings in the window of a Bethnal Green pawn shop Amulette De Cartier earring Pink Gold. And I have developed a strange obsession with identity bracelets. In short, I have been slowly sucked into the world of male jewellery (or to Cockneys). And what a different world it is.
Close observation of my own sex seems to suggest that many women treat their jewellery as they do their clothes: mixing and matching and rapidly changing as they see fit. Male jewellery, on the other hand, appears to be governed by myriad of rules, but then that is generally true of male dress cartier earring replica.
The fantastical world of Cartier watches
Looking through the collections of the Museum of London, the home of one not only of the world most fabulous collections of menswear but also of exquisite examples of male jewellery, I have been able to track some evolutionary trends. In 1860, Cecil B. Hartley advised gentlemen never to wear jewels for ornament but to let their jewellery some use and functionality, real or pretended, seems to dominate male jewellery.
Photo: Ross Trevail
Maybe that is one reason why earrings have not caught on in a big, mainstream way since the time of Sir Walter Raleigh, despite David Beckham best efforts. In 1588, Raleigh fetchingly accessorised his peascod doublet with a pointy beard and double pearl earring, and he was not alone. If the so called Chandos portrait is anything to go by, Shakespeare thought nothing of putting a gold sleeper in his left ear. And one of the triplicate Charles I painted by van Dyck skilfully sets off the pattern of his lace collar against the sheen of a smooth pearl drop. Sadly the 17th century was the last time the male earring would be accepted in polite society for several hundred years. After all, it is hard to ascribe any sort of practical use to a bauble dangling from your earlobe.
In the 18th century, the watch chain was born, as voluminous breeches shrank to skin tight pantaloons, requiring a new means of carrying one time piece. Elaborately folded cravats demanded a pin to stay in place and ties were later kept from flapping with clips, slides or even chains. Signet rings could still be put to their originally intended use should the need arise and sealing wax be procured. When Amy Vanderbilt published her guide to living in 1952, the hefty Complete Book of Etiquette, she did not even consider male earrings. Vanderbilt only allowed antique seal rings gold with a coat of arms or monogram and rejected rings with stones as well as class and fraternity rings. Decorating the male index or second finger was deemed plain theatrical and affected
More than ten years later the Duke of Bedford still cautioned male readers of his Book of Snobs to choose their jewellery the utmost care and caution Rejecting tie clips Trinity fake cartier gold ring, watch chains and large cuff links, the Duke only allowed gold watches and signet ring on the little finger of the left hand
Photo: Ross Trevail
Of course not everyone observes these rules. Some have enough money, charisma, or both, to get away with wearing their watch over their shirt cuff (Gianni Agnelli) or proudly display a succession of gigantic rings with large stones and diamonds (Elvis).
The men who appear in "Tomfoolery", a new photography exhibition at the Museum of London, have clearly discarded the advice of etiquette books or their modern equivalents. Most of those photographed by Ross Trevail wear some, if not all, of their bits of every single day: a combination of watches, rings, necklaces and bracelets all of which serve as reminders of a period in their life, an event or a person, rather than just being pure fashion accessories.
Whether you choose to follow the rulebook or not, Vanderbilt suggestion for the unfortunate recipient of a platinum watch chain tiny diamonds between the links still stands: should return it to the jeweller who was talked into making it and go to Palm Beach on the proceeds or put them on the nearest fast horse
Beatrice Behlen is Senior Curator of Fashion at the Museum of London. Tomfoolery opens at the Museum of London on Tuesday 8 October and runs until Sunday 16 March 2014. Entry is Free.
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