Exactly when a man’s lapel became the stage for displays of patriotic fervour, tribal affiliation or cultural distinction is open to interpretation. French men since at least Napoleon have loved exhibiting their décorations — medals, crosses or discrete bar pins, colour-coded to represent different honours bestowed by the nation — and Freemasons have long signalled fellow brothers with badges denoting rank.
Next month, the badge of honour gets an upgrade with Tiffany & Co.’s first dedicated men’s pieces for its annual Blue Book high jewellery collection. Blue Book functions as “the creative laboratory for Tiffany, a place to experiment, to try new settings, techniques and concepts,” says Reed Krakoff, Tiffany & Co.’s chief artistic officer. Traditionally, the brand’s statement jewellery has been worn by princesses or movie stars. And yet, Krakoff notes, “half of Tiffany’s customers are men.”
The new designs took over two years of development, during which rare gemstones, found everywhere from Botswana to Russia, were “auditioned” by Tiffany & Co.’s chief gemologist, Melvyn Kirtley. Among the 12 pieces are a gold bird’s-head-shaped signet ring with a row of rubies subtly inset on one side, as well as a “handkerchief” brooch featuring a 5-carat emerald-cut diamond at its centre and a line of baguette diamonds peeking out between its layers of 18-karat gold — brushed in front and polished to a high shine on the reverse side, where only the wearer will see it. There’s also a platinum brooch in the form of a beetle, its body glittering with diamonds and its jaws clutching a giant 7-carat blue spinel.
Clearly, the designers had a taste for whimsy, and some of the sparkling creatures also come with individualized “vessels” for their storage or display. (These components were handmade by the artisans of Tiffany’s holloware workshop in Rhode Island; they also create the trophies for the Super Bowl and the World Series.) A sleekly abstract, 18-karat gold bird pin studded with sapphires and diamonds nestles inside a sterling silver and gold vermeil birdhouse, while the beetle is secreted within a silver and gold vermeil matchbox, as if placed there for safekeeping by a boy who stumbled upon it while exploring the remote corners of his backyard. “I’m always drawn to the juxtaposition of something naïve with something extraordinary,” says Krakoff. “And I think it’s very much a part of Tiffany’s DNA — this offhanded, unstudied American sense of luxury.” So: Made for men, but, as Kirtley and Krakoff also point out, in these gender-fluid times, the pieces could actually be worn by anybody. All you need is character — and a special occasion.
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