The interesting story of Men's Jewelry

Women are mostly seen as the ones wearing jewelry pieces because it does not only add glamor but shows status as well.

Even though women are more prominent in wearing jewelry, it's actually men who started wearing it first. These are not just for style, social status, protection and luck but also as an iconic reward.

There are a lot of interesting points to consider about this. You might wonder what is the importance of this article. It is to inform you my dear reader of worlds. That you may have additional knowledge that you can use as a conversation starter or just something that's nice to know on your part. 

Tooth Necklace Anyone?

Historians believe that the Neanderthals were the first to use these statement pieces or jewelry. 130,000 years ago, men simply wore a necklace made of animal teeth and shells. It might be quite odd of course to do that these days. However, it is a symbol of prowess because that means that somebody was able to kill an animal with crude, simple instruments. That requires a lot of guts and tactics indeed lest you be eaten by the wild animal itself. Then the wild animal will surely have a necklace or bracelet made of a set of human teeth. Kidding aside, the bigger the tooth/ teeth, the bigger the animal, the more it screams of the alpha male.

tooth necklace, history of men's jewelry


Ancient Egypt 

After that age, here comes the Egyptian era. Based on the "Mummy" and other cartoons that I've watched, gold necklaces and other types of jewels seem to be prominent. Kidding aside, both men and women wore jewelry like bracelets, collars, rings, crowns, pectorals, amulets, girdles and armbands. This is mainly for self-adornment, to show social status and for protection as these were deemed to have apotropaic powers. Egyptians also used these to get the attention of their gods. These important pieces are then buried along with the owners. The reason why, Indian Jones and other such stories had come to life. Though their jewelry is mainly made of gold, it’s coloured with colourful inlays like turquoise, carnelian and lapis lazuli. 



Then here comes the Greeks. There's not much history of ancient Greeks wearing jewelry unless wearing the laurel leaves is their form of jewelry but it's not. Men living in Athens and Sparta thought that accessories other than the rings are deemed effeminate. 

The later part of Greece, however, did show some forms of jewelry that were especially made by artisans. 

Pirates and Honour.

Pirates were known to wear hoop earrings which served an important function. It wasn't just for show and fashion, but it's to secure a proper burial. When the Pirates die, these hoop earrings are usually melted and used to cover burial expenses. Based on the code of honor, the earrings were not usually pocketed as these were used for burial expenses. Some even had the name of the port close to their home engraved in the hoop earring so that they may be buried near that place. This shows that even though Pirates are portrayed as barbaric and whatnot, their earrings actually are not for show nor fashion, but more on the practical side. 


Ainu men and women wearing earrings, circa 12th century. These Japanese men and women wore large hoop earrings before but it was banned by the government in the 1800's. 

Ainu men wearing earrings, history of men's jewelry

By Bronisław Piłsudski - National Museum of Natural History, National Anthropological Archives, Public Domain

Nana Fadnavis

Indian Minister who worked for Maratha empire in the 1700’s 

This famous painting of him shows gigantic hoop earrings and a string of pearls around his neck. 

Nana Fadnavis, history of men's jewelry.



Master goldsmiths and known for the brooches artistic torcs worn by men. 

The Snettisham Great Torc, history of men's necklace

Great Torc


Romans: Ancient Romans wore earrings and rings and sometimes pendants to show power, wealth, influence and knowledge. During that time, men wore less jewelry as compared to women. Their common jewelries were finger rings (they can wear multiple rings at once) and fibulae. For those in the senatorial rank, they wore golden rings. 

I have all this bling because I'm the King.

Decades after, here comes the royalties. We're talking about the Brits. The heavy gold chain became the trend. 

Henry VII of England, 1509 - 1547

Near or far, one would see the bling-blings all over him. He’s got jewelry like buttons all over his clothes and rings adorn his fingers. 

He was known for his 6 marriages but was also known as one of the most charismatic rulers and an extravagant spender. It is obvious from this painting as rubies glimmer down his shirt. Through this extravagant display of jewelry, he was portraying wealth and prestige. Rich and opulent fabrics are a way to show power. 

portrait of Henry VII of England, 1509 - 1547, history of men's jewelry

Credits: Wikipedia link here.

Gustavos III of Sweden, 1771 - 1792 (painted by Roslin in 1777)

The elaborate four-tiered necklace is symbolic of status and wealth over the expensive fur. You’ll also see the clothes which are embroidered in silver thread. 

Coronation portrait of Gustav III by Alexander Roslin, c. 1777, history of men's jewelry

Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer and spy 

Known as the secret lover of Queen Elizabeth and for his gigantic pearl earring. His accomplishments include introducing the potato and tobacco to England. Aside from that, he was also known as an explorer who went to look for the fabled city, the El Dorado.Unfortunately, this crossed the boundaries of the treaty between Britain and Spain which caused him his head. In 1618, despite the power of one of his admirers, he got executed in 1618.

Sir Walter Raleigh, history of men's jewelry.

Jacobo Estrada, Italian courtier.

This portrait painted by Titian depicts the courtier with an elaborate gold chain (most likely a gift from Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II), gold coins, a statue and an expensive fur. All these to show knowledge, prominence and power. 

Portrait of Jacopo Strada by Titian, 1567, history of men's jewelry

Charles I, King of England 1625 - 1649 

He was known for wearing a big pearl earring from his teenage years up until his execution. The pearl earring (⅝ inches long) had a tiny gold crown with an orb and cross. It was rumored that after he was beheaded, spectators ran to get his pearl earrings and some went to dip their handkerchief in the pool of blood. Of course at that time, he didn’t care much because he was already dead. Just kidding. 

Charles I, King of England 1625 - 1649, history of men's jewelry

Charles V (1586–1605) : 

Portrait painted by Juan Pantoja dela Cruz

This painting shows the armor embellished with jewelry. Of course, it was not worn during the battle as it is definitely impractical to do so. This painting shows military strength and sovereign power, thus, the extravagant show of jewelry. Take a cue from the fluffy red feather on his helmet, for sure, it was not meant to be used in war or to dust off dirt from his horse. LOL

Charles V (1586–1605), history of men's jewelry


These paintings of the men, the rulers, definitely all have a lot in common. It conveys power, power and more power. 

Aside from that, rings, currently, these are to symbolize marriage and fashion. That wasn’t the case before. The rings before were made of gold and precious stones but also had definite purposes. For one, it identified social allegiance. The rings had specific designs to conform to the allegiance. Moreover, it was also used to seal wax as it was customary to seal letters with wax before. More importantly, these specific rings were worn during special events to convey their social allegiance.