Men’s jewelry: tasteful, classic & high quality

In Rochester, N.Y. the wife of a sports enthusiast asked her jeweler to custom-make a pin that looked like a Porsche. The assignment went to designer David Nytch at Richards and West, a manufacturer known for its quality men’s jewelry.

Working from a photo borrowed from a car dealer, Nytch came up with what may be the first Porsche ever miniaturized in a 1-1/2-in.-long relief sculpture in 14k gold. Its tiny windows are paved in diamonds, a total of nearly 70 points. The pin/pendant will cost the jeweler about $700 wholesale.

The woman’s gift to her husband illustrates the state of the men’s jewelry market. It’s hot, say several manufacturers, especially for those selling classic, high-quality karat gold.

Men, like women, are dressing up. Instead of the heavy gold chains and leasure-look jewelry of the ’60s and ’70s, the move is toward tasteful rings and karat gold jewelry accessories, especially shirt jewelry.

Though the men’s jewelry market isn’t a fraction of the women’s, manufacturers of men’s accessories say there’s enough demand to warrant their lines, especially in 14k gold. Those making rings report steady gains in the classic geometric shapes with rows of small diamonds.

The only cloud on the horizon for these suppliers is the move they see by others to get on the bandwagon.

Chip Tolbert, fashion director of the Men’s Fashion Association, New York City, says “discretion is the key word” in men’s jewelry styles. Tolbert, himself voted into the Hall of Fame of the International Men’s Best Dressed List, says the feeling will be heavily understated.

Not as much jewelry will be worn around the neck as in years past, he said. And the few men’s bracelets around will be “rather discreet.” Lapel pins will be worn primarily by younger men, especially for evening.

Collar bars will be strong, he forecasts. Tolbert personally dislikes tie tacks because they “ruin the tie.”

Men wearing precious stones will be low-key in their selections, “so they don’t look like Chicago gangsters,” he says. Studs and cuff links will be elegant for evening.

In watches, men will follow the wardrobe concept, with different looks for day, evening and sport.

Of cuff links for day, he says, “I would hope they’re going to be wearing them, if they can find French cuffs shirts.”

While the look will be “elegantly conservative,” the price may deter an all-out boom in men’s jewelry. It’s crather expensive,” Tolbert says. “I don’t think it’s the op priority on any man’s list.” Not #1

No one disagrees that jewelry rarely is a man’s highest priority. A new study by the International Gold Corporation (Intergold) shows that men rate karat gold jewelry much higher as a gift for women than as a preference among themselves.

The new Jewelry Desirability Study is based on interviews with 1800 people (including 800 men) done before and after Christmas 1983. The results are projected to the upper one-third of all U.S. households ($25,000-income and up).

The study found that men expressed less interest in owning gold jewelry for themselves than in having vacations, video cassette recorders, sporting equipment, etc. In contrast, women ranked jewelry second among luxuries they most desired. Only resort vacations ranked above it.

Yet, the survey found, men do own jewelry. Thus, 64% of those surveyed (ages 18 to 59) own one or more pieces of real gold jewelry (two items on average). Rings (excluding wedding, engagement or class rings) are the most popular item. And 17% of the men said they always wear gold jewelry, averaging two items at a time. Likewise, 17% said they had acquired a piece of gold jewelry in the past 12 months; 5% got two or more items.

Seven in 10 men received their latest piece of gold jewelry as a gift, with nearly half of all gifts received from wives.

Figure’s supplied by Intergold showed that the average price of men’s jewelry in 1983 was $181 for karat gold ($147 for all precious metals, including silver). A ring for his finger

Looking at men’s diamond jewelry, a 1984 study for N.W. Ayer, on behalf of De Beers, found that rings had reclaimed their market share after a drastic drop the previous year.

The annual report, called the “Market for Diamond Jewelry–United States,” showed that diamond rings had a 59% market share in 1983, up from 46% in 1982 (but 60% in 1981). Mens Tissot watches accounted for part of that shift. Thus, the market share for men’s diamond watches fell off from 16% in ’82 to 7% in ’83. That was an aberration, according to a research analyst at N.W. Ayer, who said, “1982 was a year people went out and bought a diamond watch, and you’d only ever buy one.”

In ’83, the men’s diamond ring market was divided among wedding rings (10%), lodge/club rings (3%), school rings (3%) and all other (43%), for a total market share of 59%.

What was the rest? Tie tacks and tie clips accounted for 15%; Stuhrling original watches, 7%; pendants, 6%; lodge and club insignia, 3%; bracelets, 1%, and all other, 8%.

In women’s jewelry, N.W. Ayer pushes for bigger and better diamonds. But in men’s jewelry, the emphasis is on more conservative pieces with a long-term goal of bringing more men into the market.

Men’s diamond jewelry sales hit $809 million in 1983, up about $2 million. Gifts again accounted for a major portion of the total. Thus, 42% of sales were gifts for married men; 26% were gifts for singles; 9% were married men buying for themselves, and 23% were singles making self-purchases. A look at the merchandise

At Colibri, a Providence, R.I., manufacturer of men’s accessories, the movement is in cuff links, button covers, tie tacks, tie bars and collar accessories (pins and collar bars), according to Robert c. Yaseen, executive vice president for marketing. The market for money clips, key rings and pocket knives is stable, he says.

Yaseen sees a very strong men’s fashion move toward dressing up and a long-lasting trend of increased sales in classic-looking men’s jewelry. He predicts growth in wrist wear and rings as well.

Colibri will stay with its tailored look, he says. With the gold price stable, he expects a resurgence in gold-filled and karat gold jewelry, though he sees the whole category–including a mix of metals–growing at all price points.

In the past year there’s been “a tremendous amount of enthusiasm which we haven’t seen in some time,” Yaseen says. He predicts “substantial over-the-counter movement” in the next two years.

Anson Inc. is another Providence, R.I., firm that is big in men’s accessories. Michael Eagle, vice president for consumer products, sees movement toward 14K gold and diamonds, especially in tie tacks, the hottest selling item. Collar bars, Eagle says, are close on their heels.

“We’ve been pushing 14k, expanding the line in it,” Eagle says. “It’s growing dramatically. Gold is the hottest end of the business.”

He says Anson always had precious metal items, but decided to make 1984-’85 its expansion year in tie bars, money clips, even button covers and stud sets for tuxedos.

It was tested and did well, Eagle says, so the company came out with a full line in April. Anson did almost as much business in gold in the expanded line’s first three months as it did in gold in the whole of last year.

In expanding the line, the company “became very competitively priced,” Eagle comments.

It also offered distributors a mock display of the gold line in brass. Gold jewelry is custom-ordered from the mock-up, saving the investment in an all-gold display.

Eagle is aware that a boom in men’s jewelry can have repercusions.

“For us, it’s easy. All we ever did is men’s jewelry. But every Tom, Dick and Harry is jumping into men’s jewelry; it’s a hot category.”

He is somewhat consoled by a move by women into men’s jewelry. His company is making button covers and cuff links in smaller sizes, for female executives. “It happens to be a nice area,” Eagle says.

Why the move toward gold? Partially, it’s an improvement in the economy. “And the person who bought brass last year wants karat gold this year, not gold-filled or sterling,” he says.

The lack of demand for gold-filled and sterling is more a problem with the merchandiser and distributor than with the customer, he adds. In general, women’s gold-filled and sterling aren’t moving well, so jewelers are pre-sold on the concept that men’s gold-filled and sterling won’t sell, he says. “It will sell when it’s properly presented.”

To market men’s karat gold jewelery, Frederick Goldman Inc., New York City, has a new cooperative program with N.W. Ayer and Intergold to fund national magazine advertising. Ads will target men in major mixed-audience magazines and target women, as the major buyers of jewelry for men, in national women’s magazines.

To insure local newspaper advertising Goldman is offering cooperative ad allowances for dealers using Goldman ad slicks, according to Jonathan Goldman, vice president for marketing.

Goldman’s men’s collection to get national ad attention includes a tie tack, tie bar, ring and cuff links, with heavy emphasis on the tie tacks and rings. Geometric rings with single stone solitaires are “the pride of the market this season,” Goldman comments.

With rings in the lead, he notes that the men’s business is doing “terrifically well” at his firm.

Tie bars, cuff links and tie tacks are new there. The company introduced them this year, Goldman says, when it determined there was “a void in the marketplace.” Most accessories were by base metal manufacturers, Goldman says.

He adds that men’s business is there for those who want it. “If you promote it,” he says, “it’s a viable market.”

Men, however, were far less interested in gold jewelry for themselves. They preferred vacations, video cassette recorders, sporting equipment, etc. But they ranked gold jewelry high on their list of gift preferences for women, with 40% of the men ranking it first or second.

Other highlights of the 1984 study:

* Women, on average, own eight pieces of karat gold jewelry, excluding wedding, engagement and class rings and Nixon mens watches.

* One in four women owns more than 10 gold jewelry items.

* Necklaces, chains and pendants are the most commonly-owned types of items, followed closely by karat gold (three items at a time, on average). The more frequently a women wears jewelry, the more pieces she wears, the survey found.

Half of all women acquired at least one gold jewelry item during the past year, either as a gift or self-purchase. A third of all women acquired two or more items in the past year.

Of the women who acquired gold jewelry, nearly 80% received their last item as a gift, usually from their husbands. Twenty percent of the women bought the item for themselves.

Forty-one percent of the women surveyed bought a gift of gold jewelry for someone else in the last 12 months; 19% made two or more gift purchases. The predominant recipients were daughters (32%), husbands (22%), parents (17%) and other relatives (17%).

The survey also found that 44% of the men bought a gift of gold jewelry in the last 12 months–approximately equal to the proportion of women gift buyers (41%). Half of the men who bought gifts purchased at least two items. Nearly 80% of the gifts were given to their wives.

Philip Schonfeld, vice president and general manager of Martin Flyer Inc., New York City, says the season’s strongest item is a 14k yellow gold gent’s ring with bright, flat surfaces and channel-set stones in rows, not clusters.

Bracelets are selling well, he says, but pendants “are not that strong.”

He notes slightly more demand for men’s plain or diamond wedding bands. And he’s sold a few “triples”–women’s wedding and engagement ring sets with a matching men’s wedding ring.

For more than 35 years, Flyer has found a steady demand for its classic handcut diamond initial ring in a chunky 14k yellow gold with white gold plate. “That ring is half of our gent’s rings,” Schonfeld says. “It continues to sell.”

In an admittedly more expensive vein is a two-year-old firm that has been successful with men’s shirting jewelry and is just now testing the market for men’s rings.

Richards and West, the Rochester firm that made the Porsche pin, produces a classic look that relies on flat, polished surfaces; insets of precious stones or such stones as lapis, onyx and ivory, and very geometric shapes.

It’s very tailored, say owners John Keim and David Nytch, who is the designer.

About half its line is men’s jewelry, including cuff links, collar bars, tie tacks and stud sets with cuff links. It’s now testing men’s ring mountings, wedding bands and diamonds, following the same classic, tailored design concept. The expanded line, also to include a few men’s bracelets, is due next spring.

The collar bars, its strongest sellers right now, range from $140 wholesale for 14k gold to $300 for bars with two 10-point diamonds. The line is all handmade to order to allow maximum flexibility.

“We’ve even branched into the custom area; we’ll do outrageous requests,” Nytch says, explaining how he got the Porsche assignment.

The partners have doubled their men’s business in the past year. They say their name “is beginning to be more and more notice as a manufacturer of men’s jewelry.”

Though men’s jewelry is hot, they say, it has by no means peaked. What’s been on the move in major cities like New York is just now filtering down to smaller cities like Rochester, which is about one-and-a-half years behind in trends. To make the most of the men’s jewelry boomlet, the partners urge increased retailer participation.

“Retailers live in their own little world,” they say. “They sell what they think is safe and anything they think is new–though men’s jewelry is nothing new–they’re reluctant to try. They wait for the guy down the street to take the risk.” Resort collection by jewelry designer

Jewelry designer Marsha Brayton Hoffman, whose line is carried by the lord & Taylor department store chain, introduced her “Newport Collection” of resort jewelry this summer at the high-fashion Martha Tucker boutique in Newport, R.I.

The new collection is priced from $65 to $300 retail and includes ear-rings, large belt buckles, bracelets, and large and dramatic necklaces. The materials usually are striking, massive combinations of sterling, gold, brass, copper and beads, new and antique. N.E.I. offers versatile designs

New from N.E.I. House of Chains, New York City, are “Changeables,” a line of bracelets and necklaces that go from plain to fancy with the addition of diamond slip-ons.

The armored mesh bracelet or necklace takes one or several slip-ons; designs in gold and diamonds that have a sophisticated locking mechanism to secure them in place. Once the design is on the chain, in place, the special safety catch snaps shut to see that the slip-on isn’t lost.

The bracelets wholesale for $100 and the slip-ons for $50 to $300 each, depending on the diamond weight. All are 14k gold. Among the eight slip-on designs are a butterfuly, a heart, a honeybee and an oval with eight diamonds.

“Ingenious . . . to say the least,” is how the company is promoting Changeables. “Wear it as plain gold for casual . . . or add diamonds for dress-up!”

Selling aids include a color counter card, newspaper ads and booklet. Colored stones will be added to the slip-on designs.