The History of the Cufflink
Although historians have observed the presence of cufflinks in ancient Egyptian paintings, the cufflink as we know it dates back to the 17th century, before which time sleeves were buttoned or tied at the wrist in bows. When they first emerged they were exclusively worn by the aristocracy and were predominantly made from gold and adorned by gem stones. Interestingly, they were often gifted – just as they are today. Cufflinks were produced to celebrate an occasion such as a coronation or wedding – or a political message: pictured are a set in support of the monarchy after the execution of Charles I in 1649.
Cufflinks in support of the monarchy after the execution of Charles I – 1649
It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that the cufflink really started to become popular. This was mainly due to the convergence of four factors:
- the rise of the bourgeoisie. The emerging middle class dressed conservatively and practically.
- the development of the tailored shirt, with it’s down-turned collars and unfastened cuffs.
- the birth of the lounge suit – the perfect complement to the new style of shirt.
- the industrial revolution. The development of precious metal electroplating, along with the ability to mass produce and transport cheaply meant that the cuff link was now affordable to all.
Family photo cufflinks, gold plated – ca. 1900
It was around this time that a jeweller called George Krementz patented a cufflink making device – ingeniously adapted from a civil war cartridge shell making machine. Krementz & Co went on to become one of the largest jewellery manufacturers of all time – the embodiment of the American Dream.
The Krementz factory, Newark – 1910
Cufflinks soon became a must have fashion accessory – and have remained so to this day. Then and now, they are one of the few items of jewellery that every man enjoys wearing and receiving as a gift. Timeless and stylish, they are the perfect complement to a well-tailored suit and shirt.
Fabergé egg cufflinks that were a gift from his mother to Tsar Nicholas II. Easter day – 1907
Fun fact: Edward VII (he of Prince of Wales check fame) liked to adorn his cufflinks with colourful Fabergé eggs. Is he to blame for the ‘novelty’ cufflink?!
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