A Guy's Guide to Bling
The December holidays are the third most popular occasions for which men’s jewelry is purchased (the first and second are anniversaries and birthdays, respectively). Whether you’re looking to gift yourself or your significant other, Matthew Wilson, fourth-generation co-owner of the 103-year-old Wilson & Son Jewelers in Scarsdale and Mount Kisco, answers your questions on all things bling for the Y-chromosomed.
How have sales of men’s jewelry changed over the years?
It’s been trending up for the last five years, with thirty percent of our current sales men’s jewelry versus women's—as opposed to fifteen percent five years ago. More men are wearing French cuff shirts now and thus need cufflinks, men are seeing more actors and sports figures wear jewelry, and there are more metrosexuals who are into fashion-forward looks.
What’s hot in men’s jewelry design?
We’re seeing more avant garde looks—more use of unusual gems and materials like rubber and leather—and edgier designs. We, for example, now have hand-enameled cufflinks featuring solid-gold skulls with diamond eye sockets for $3,500. If you had told me five years ago that I’d be selling these, I would have said that you were crazy.
What three pieces of jewelry should every man own?
A wedding band, if married, a nice watch, and cufflinks. And ideally, every man should have three different watches: a sport watch; a nice, classic gold dress watch with an alligator band; and a steel-and-gold design watch—as well as three different pairs of cufflinks: gold with engraved initials; a classic gold knot design; and silver or gold with black onyx.
What about earrings for men?
We still don’t sell a tremendous amount. Compared to ten years ago, yes, sales have increased, but they’ve stayed pretty much the same for the past five.
Do you wear earrings?
Not now. In college, I had a little diamond stud, but after I came to work at the store, my grandmother gave me an ultimatum: either it goes or you do. So it went.
What types of men’s jewelry are gaining or losing favor?
There’s been a definite increase in men wearing bracelets—silver, silver and leather, and silver or gold with rubber. And we rarely if ever sell tie tacks anymore—people don’t want to stick a needle into a beautiful tie.
What pieces of jewelry are you currently wearing?
I’m wearing my eighteen-karat gold rolling-ring wedding band that retails for about $2,000; a thirty-five-year-old vintage Rolex Daytona watch that retails for about $35,000, and a ten-year-old pair of eighteen-karat gold-and-silver cufflinks that retail for about $795.
What is your favorite piece of jewelry and why?
My wedding band—because I have the most awesome wife! I’ve been wearing it every day for the last eighteen years and it never comes off, even to sleep or shower.
What percentage of married men wear wedding bands?
About five percent do not. And ninety-nine percent of their wives are not happy about it.
What kinds of men’s jewelry do you sell?
We carry men’s jewelry from about 14 different designers, including Rolex and Baume & Mercier watches, John Hardy bracelets, rings, and necklaces, Deaken & Francis cufflinks, Montblanc watches, cufflinks, and money clips, and David Yurman jewelry and watches.
What kinds of men’s jewelry do your customers purchase most often?
Definitely watches, then cufflinks, and third would be bracelets.
Why do some men seem to shy away from wearing jewelry?
Some men say ‘It’s not me, I’m not a jewelry person or ‘Wearing jewelry is feminine.’ A lot of my customers live in a beautiful house, drive a beautiful car, and wear beautiful suits—but they wear a basic runners watch. They’re not comfortable telegraphing their wealth or they’re under the misconception that wearing jewelry is flashy and not simply an adornment.
Have you sold many wedding bands to gay partners for wedding/commitment ceremonies?
Of course, we’ve probably always sold some and not even known that’s what they were for, but it’s absolutely on the rise. We’ve sold more of them in the last few years—although they still account for less than five percent of our wedding band business.
Of gay partners to whom you’ve sold wedding bands, what percentage choose matching design versus unmatched ones?
It’s the same as that for heterosexual couples: fifty percent choose matching bands and fifty percent choose bands that are different from one another.
What’s a good alternative to the tired fountain pen gift for the Bar Mitzvah boy?
Believe it or not, we sell a ton of engraved Rolex watches at between $4,000 and $6,000 to parents, grandparents, or groups of friends. We also sell a lot of engraved Swiss Army watches for between $250 and $650.
How has your business been affected by the current economic downturn in general?
We made a decision not to participate in the current economic downturn. There are always special occasions and milestones that people are going to buy gifts of jewelry for.
What about pinky rings? Do you wear one and do you sell many of them?
No, I don’t. They’re not big here; people rarely buy them.
What was the first piece of jewelry you recall owning?
When I was around five, I receive a gold signet ring with my initials. I still have it; today it would retail for between $500 and $700.
-- Laurie Yarnell