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When It Comes to Jewelry, Women Have It All Over Men

March 19, 1993|JOHN MORELL

Men have worn jewelry for thousands of years, but in the past 200 years, they have pretty much stepped back and allowed women to flaunt the gold and glitter. This masculine minimalism puts a great deal of meaning on the few adornments men do wear today.

Where's the line between too much and too little? Here are some guidelines:

* Watch: The ultimate mark of '80s ostentation, the gold watch continues to be a male status symbol. "Even during the worst of the recession, men were still buying gold watches," says Barbara Martinez of Shreve & Co. Jewelers in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa.

If a man has a low-end goldie (which start around $8,000), he may go to the trouble of wearing shirts with cuffs just a little shorter than usual to make sure his material success is visible. But top-of-the-line gold watches accented with diamonds or other precious stones usually aren't worn to make an impression. If a man can afford this timepiece ($20,000 and up), he's probably concerned more about security than being seen.

The classic two-toned Rolex is a step below the gold but can be either a dressy or casual watch. For men who don't want to play the metal-band game, the subtle leather-band watch means they're not into status symbols.

Wear a digital watch to an important business meeting (where no engineers are present) and a man risks not being taken seriously. A pocket watch with a chain won't win him any points unless he's having lunch with railroad executives.

* Cuff links: These tiny pieces of jewelry come plain or with highly stylized designs. They can accent a jacket and help keep the shirt cuff pulled down so that it's visible when the jacket's on.

* Tie pins and bars: Simple gold or silver tie pins (no corporate logos) or tie bars are wore by a man with a sense of order and neatness. But beware: Tie bars are fading from fashion . . . again.

* Rings: The simple gold wedding band is going the way of the tie bar. Unique combinations of yellow and white gold or platinum are hot sellers (they go great with a two-tone Rolex on the wrist), especially those designed in the masculine "square" style.

Class or signet rings on the right hand show some style, but pinky rings or those with a diamond larger than a bride's solitaire mean a man is definitely on the other side of good taste.

* Earrings: The popularity of men's earrings has waned a bit. It's not as cool as it once was, but earrings are still OK for social occasions. In a conservative situation, a man should remove his earring, though.

* Chains: A fine, simple gold chain necklace or bracelet is a sign of a guy not afraid to try a new look. But add more than one on the neck or wrist and he's perceived as gaudy.

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