BEIRUT: No need to squirm at the idea; men can wear gold jewelry, and they do. Sporting luxurious pieces of gold with a splash of moderation can add a personal signature to clothing selections without looking too flashy and still managing to come off as suave. Because of the stigma that wearing jewelry is purely a woman’s domain, it is often overlooked by men, but, to some people’s surprise, many are able to join what was once a women’s exclusive party and incorporate gold into their everyday wardrobe with great ease. Gold’s luster and its resistance to tarnish have attracted the eyes of many, and it is generally equated with cultural elite and personal wealth.
For Phoenician and Egyptian men, gold jewelry was a symbol of both power and social rank. Egyptians were even buried with their gold; the more they had with them in the tomb, the more prosperous their afterlife was supposed to be.
In the Middle Ages, knights wore jewelry to protect themselves from evil spirits.
However, the days of Tutankhamen and King Arthur are over. Men today tend to be more conservative in what kind of jewelry they wear and how much, but that’s not to say that they don’t enjoy the occasional gold necklace, chain bracelet, or cuff link.
With men growing more comfortable with grooming themselves, many jewelers in Lebanon today have a dedicated men’s section, and the choices are not as limited as some might think. Men can choose from a wide range of gold jewelry that is neither tacky nor over the top.
In essence, gold chains with religious symbols as pendants, such as the crucifix, the zulfiqar (sword of Ali), or Quranic verses, have proved to perhaps be one of the most wearable solid gold items by Lebanese men, and have been for years.
Cuff links, which are part of an age-old tradition, are perhaps the second-most popular, and adding gold ones to any French-cuff shirt reflects a well-dressed man. Simple gold cuff-links can be both elegant and traditional, and some men even go for ones embellished with gemstones.
Though some may scoff at the idea, gold watches are also gaining momentum, boosted by models from Rolex, Breitling, Versace, and Omega that are subtle as well as tasteful.
Rings are now no longer just for the married, and white gold rings can provide a simple twist to this jewelry staple. Yellow gold, white gold, and two-tone gold chain bracelets are also highly in demand as they add shine and color to any piece.
Youmna Kreidi, manager at Dehab Jewelry Gallery, said although men’s jewelry collections were not as popular as the women’s, there are a good number of men who do enjoy wearing jewelry. In fact, the gallery launched its collection “Just for Men” last summer to service growing demand among its male customers.
It rallied a group of graphic designers, architects, artists and such alike, and launched the exhibition, which proved incredibly popular.
“Lots of men showed up,” Kreidi said. “Most of the items that were sold were cuff links and bracelets ... gold necklaces did not sell as much.”
Zoughaib Jewelry’s most popular items are gold-plated bracelets, tie clips, cuff links, pendants and chains. Salespeople said although not many men buy jewelry, there was nevertheless a good number that has remained surprisingly stable over the last few years.
Men’s jewelry at Antoine Hakim, on the other hand, is not usually put on display, but a significant collection is kept in drawers ready to be exhibited. Most of their male clients buy gold chain bracelets and prefer them to chunky gold-link ones. Watches and necklaces are other preferred picks.
Moukarzel Jewelry said gold cuff links and pendants were their most sold items.
“We also receive a high number of girls who buy gold jewelry for their boyfriends, brothers, or fathers, more than men shopping for themselves,” said a company saleswoman who asked to remain anonymous.
Italian luxury goods company Bulgari’s biggest sellers are gold pendants and bracelets with a cotton lace. It also carries a large collection of pendants and watches, which also prove to be fashionable among the Lebanese.
Young designer Jean-Louis Sabaji said gold jewelry had not yet hit the big time in Lebanon due to conservative tastes in fashion. Gold is still associated with women rather than men.
“However, there is another part of society that does include men wearing gold ... I myself wear gold hand pieces.”
“There is some uniqueness in Lebanon; Sometimes it surprises me how much men can be stylish,” he said with a chuckle, adding that those most comfortable wearing gold jewelry tended be the men who had traveled a lot and already incorporated foreign trends into their style.
Jewelry could reflect one’s character and personal taste, Sabaji said, and although it was not totally necessary for men to adorn themselves with gold, a tasteful item or two couldn’t hurt.