Though the well-mannered Victorian gentleman was instructed to downplay his accessories so as not to outshine a lady, in the world of Steampunk all bets are off! Jewelry can be worn and flaunted by gents and ladies alike, unlike the VIctorian era where a man’s jewelry had to be “necessary.” Here’s a breakdown of historically accurate gentlemen’s jewelry and how it was worn. Use it as a guide when picking out your own bling and remember to apply the basic Steampunk rule: Start with accuracy then crank it up to 11!
A watch was probably the biggest men’s accessory, and continues to be. But unlike a wrist watch there’s just something about a pocket watch that screams sophistication and class. As a man in the Victorian era if you had to choose only one accessory this would be it. Even if you weren’t swimming in money if you could afford even a simple pocket watch, or inherit one from an older male relative you’d attain a certain level of respect. For those who could afford to splurge watch chains and fobs were a way to personalize a pocket watch. Watch chains ranged from very plain brass to high grade gold and silver, sometimes with jewel chips embedded along the links. Fobs, small charms hung from the chain, could be anything from a dangling jewel to a fraternal emblem.
Today we usually assume that if a man is going to wear any ring it’ll be his wedding ring, but that’s a actually a very recent development. The practice of men wearing wedding rings really started to be commonplace around World War I. For Victorian men rings weren’t as popular so if worn it was usually only by the upper class for special occasions. One of the most popular types of rings were Signet rings. These rings were engraved and historically used to seal envelopes shut in wax with the sender’s mark. They were passed down through the generations and regarded as family heirlooms. By the Victorian era this practice wasn’t used as much and the ring became more of a symbol of gentility. Popular engravings were coats of arms, or initials and a popular style was to wear them on the pinky finger.
Today called “stick pins” or “tie pins” these pieces were functional as well as stylish. The typical style for these pins was a three inch pin with no back that could be inserted into a gentleman’s cravat, scarf, or ascot to keep it in place. The head of these pins ranged from a plain gold or silver stud to more elaborate designs, charms, and jewels. The choice of style depended on the wealth of the wearer and the occasion at which it was worn. With subtly being the name of the game cravat pins were a really great way to add some flair while following the “necessary jewelry” rule.
Still popular among men today cufflinks could say a great deal about the wearer. While primarily used to close shirt cuffs, they were usually personalized to reflect the wearer’s tastes and hobbies. Popular designs included horses for riding or racing, foxes and boars for hunting, and crossed oars for rowers. Victorian men’s cufflinks generally did not have gemstones, however the Edwardian era following it lifted that ban and gems became fashionable for men again without being thought of as gaudy.