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Designers create fine jewelry for 'real' men who want to look good



Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Men prefer solid, well-made jewelry created from disparate materials.

MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS

No wonder they call it ice. Jewelry trends move at a glacial pace.

But a bauble bend toward the boys is starting to heat things up.

Silver-screen studs Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Samuel L. Jackson and Orlando Bloom are jewelry aficionados. Also helpful is the butch factor rising every time an athlete shows off his Fort Knoxies. And who hasn't looked slack-jawed at the diamond droolery worn by rappers and rockers? There's certainly no shock left in a world where Diamond Diddy brings the bling to the red carpet.

But none of that influences "real" men, says local jewelry designer and retailer Mark Silverman.

"Singers and celebrities may influence Gen X, but not Baby Boomers," Silverman said from his Matthews Jewelers store in Plantation, Fla. "For them it's self-pride. They look good and they feel good. They've arrived and made their money. They dress very hip and very stylish, and more than likely they collected watches because there just wasn't a lot of nice jewelry out there for them."

So a few years ago -- two to five depending on whom you ask -- the market began to respond to this sophisticated and moneyed client. Silverman (a 10-time DeBeers Diamond Design winner) now offers rings, chain necklaces, bracelets and dog tags made of such disparate materials as wood, leather, suede, stainless steel and trilobite, which are fossils from the Paleozoic era.

Interest grows

Edward Rosenberg works in titanium at his Edward Mirell factory in Deerfield Beach, Fla. But he, too, noticed a burgeoning interest in fine jewelry from the fellows.

"Jewelry was always for ladies," said Rosenberg, a third generation jewelry designer. "For men it was like an afterthought. The jewelry business is very traditional. Most jewelry stores don't even have a men's department. Jewelry is an impulse buy. If you don't see it, you don't want it."

Rosenberg said that the designs must be tailored toward men who have a different design template and aesthetic than women. He said men's jewelry must feel solidly made with heft and have technologically precise manufacturing. Organic or unusual materials pique interest since glitz and glam are understated at best.

Big business

Fine jewelry for men is considered the fastest-growing sector in the industry according to the Jewelry Information Center, an industry trade group. Here's their evidence:

Kay Jewelers has expanded their men's section from studs and hoops to sporty bracelets and three-stone diamond rings.

Tiffany is expanding their cufflink/watch section to now include sporty men's jewelry.

Tahitian pearls are growing in popularity -- retailers are marketing one simple Tahitian pearl strung on a simple leather cord for men.

Tanzanite is now being marketed to men as both an investment and the official stone for men to give women when they give birth.

Last year, men's jewelry represented about 10 percent of the 48.3 billion in fine jewelry sales in the United States, according to a study by National Jeweler magazine. This excludes watch sales. Figures from previous years were never gathered because the category barely existed.




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