Duded Up

Because the jewelry industry focuses heavily on women, many jewelers have neglected to give men the attention they deserve. But those who have, are reaping the benefits of what is being hailed the fastest growth market in the jewelry category.

Recent articles tout men’s accessories, particularly jewelry as the market to watch. Fortune describes men’s fashion as entering a renaissance, citing that top department stores like Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman have expanded their men’s sections, including luxury accessories. The New York Times Fashion & Style Section proclaims: “Jewelry for Men is Back in Vogue.” And, businessoffashion.com declares: “Once the domain of rock stars and royals, men’s jewelry has become a dynamic and valuable market.” Fashion’s biggest brands, notably Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent, Versace and Givenchy have made forays into the men’s jewelry category, as well as independent labels, reflecting growing social acceptance of men’s jewelry and a burgeoning market.

In fact, Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president and general merchandise manager at Barney’s New York raved to thebusinessoffashion.com that its men’s jewelry business is a key growth area in what has become an overarching strategy for Barneys to grow the men’s accessories business: “The new-found interest in men’s jewelry is a lasting trend; I see growth potential and a need to continue to challenge our buyers to find new and exclusive designs to satisfy demand from this sophisticated consumer.”

In the 12 months ending May 2014, sales of men’s accessories grew 9%, reaching $13.6 billion and capping a two-year period that saw the category grow 13%, according to the market research company NPD Group. According to the statistic portal Statista, men’s jewelry generated a sales value of $3.3 billion and watches 3.1 billion in the United States in 2014, top two in men’s accessories.

“Men’s jewelry is the fastest growing area percentage wise,” says Scott Rauch, president of SHR Jewelry Group/S.D.C. Designs, New York. “We conducted our own research to understand the men’s market outside of traditional gold and platinum wedding bands. We found that men are comfortable wearing jewelry, but they need to know that it’s socially acceptable, and that the women in their lives approve of it, which they do. Education and assortment are key components to winning this market.”

Alternative Materials
The clear trend in men’s jewelry in the last several years when gold became very expensive was the use of alternative metals, cites Jonathan Goodman Cohen, IB Goodman, Newport, Kentucky. “From tungsten and stainless steel to titanium and other exotic alloys, alternative metals have become staples in men’s jewelry. It was a logical progression, as dress has become more casual, and also with the popularity of white metals. Because these metals are more affordable, and mixed with materials like leather, rubber, wood, and enamel, there has been tremendous creativity in the category.”

Rings, necklaces and bracelets that incorporate inlays with carbon fiber or wood, or have diamond or CZ accents, or leather bands are still frontrunners, says Karen Crowe, marketing/merchandising, Quality Gold. But she hails wedding bands the bread and butter in men’s jewelry.

“In alternative metals, we carry both the Chisel® and Edward Mirell lines,” highlights Crowe. “Popular styles include Chisel® titanium, stainless steel, Black Ti™, ceramic and cobalt designs in plain bands, as well as carbon fiber and 14K gold inlays, and diamond and CZ accented. Tops for Edward Mirell, titanium and Black Ti™ rings featuring sterling silver, memory cable and 14K gold inlays, as well as diamond and spinel accents.”

Gold & Diamonds
Quality Gold also does well with its custom weddings bands in 10K and 14K gold, says Crowe, with choice of finishes, laser designs and engraving options, produced in its Fairfield, Ohio facility.

Cohen cites strength in gold and diamond bands, noting that ¼ to ½ carat total weight was favored, now its ½-1 carat. “There is a certain segment of the market who make an investment in their ring, let’s say $1,000 or more, and want people to know they’re wearing real gold and diamonds. We do a very good business in men’s diamond rings. We see growing demand at higher price points. There is great opportunity for jewelers to do more in this area.”

Besides white diamonds, men are keen on black and brown diamonds, says Rauch, and other gems like sapphire, garnet, and black onyx, even jasper, lapis and tiger’s eye in higher end designs. He concurs that yellow gold is trending in both interest and sales, and that men want credit for wearing gold.

Stacking & Layering
While typically understated in their bling, men are players in layering. “Men are piling on the bracelets and not shy about making a statement on their wrist,” says Rauch. “Bracelets are a huge business, with the trend among men to stack different types like chain, leather and gem beads.” He also notes that men are layering pendants, crosses and tags with symbolic messages. “Men are adding on to their look. That’s what we’re seeing and promoting.”

Men’s bracelets and necklaces are trending, strong in both gold and alternative metals, concurs Crowe. “Our Leslie’s line is doubling the selection of 14K men’s bracelets in the upcoming 2015-2016 catalog due to this popularity.” She notes that for her teenage grandson, accessorizing with jewelry by layering bracelets and necklaces with every outfit is a must. “I keep up with trends by checking out what he and his friends are wearing. His jewelry wardrobe is surpassing mine!”

Amanda Gizzi, director of public relations and special events for Jewelers of America, rates leather bracelets with silver a leading trend. “Big sliver clasps with rugged weight, lots of leather, more brown than black. Also pendants, with symbols of faith are important, some gold, but more silver.”

Getting Personal
With personalization so popular, Crowe says the Chisel® line continues to be a driving force for Quality Gold in men’s accessories because it offers a variety of bracelets, necklaces, cuff links, key rings and money clips that can be engraved.

Concurs Alix Gonsoulin, director of fine jewelry, Stuller, Lafayette, Louisiana: “Keeping on the personalization trend, engraveable cuff links remain popular and we’re seeing a big uptick in signet rings.” IBGoodman also does well with signet styles and Masonic rings, which Cohen considers a great customer builder.

Gizzi cites a huge surge in cufflinks with a broad selection of styles now available, and the trend for French cuff shirts. “It’s a great gift item, priced well, and the perfect way to express personality and style. Trending in design are color and whimsy. Cufflinks are very much a part of men’s storytelling.”

Cohen notes that IBGoodman is expanding its cufflink offerings, and also innovating designs for money clips and key chains. He says the company is big on creating ensembles, as men like to match their accessories.

Watch Draw
With watches a top selling category in men’s accessories, benefits abound for jewelers who have an exciting selection of watches in their store. “Most men own a collection of watches and the jeweler can benefit greatly by showing a variety of brands and styles in their stores,” hails Fae Druiz, vice president public relations, Bulova, New York City. “Watches attract new customers!”

Men’s fashion magazines and online sites show a wide range of styles so the wearer can select designs that fit their lifestyle. “I see that trend increasing with page after page devoted just to watches,” says Druiz. “Instagram also has a tremendous and growing number of men photographing their wrist with their new watch! Watches complete an outfit and say a lot about the wearer. There are styles for the customer who appreciates classic design, or innovative technology, or trendy standouts. Bulova has a portfolio of brands specifically for that reason.”