Nowadays, men’s jewelry is a trend that has become more and more popular since the early twentieth century. Before that, glittering decoration was considered an effeminate attraction… or so you might think.
In truth, outside of Western culture, male jewelry has been a fairly common practice all throughout history. Often it was considered a mark of wealth and authority, giving its wearer a certain aristocratic status in society. In Ancient Egypt, the first culture to use jewelry made of gold, men adorned themselves with just as many trinkets as did women, if not more! In fact, statues of kings and gods were lavishly bejeweled, as were the living Pharaohs themselves. For the male population, no ornament was off limits: they wore earrings, bracelets, rings, even anklets, not to mention several that have fallen out of use today, like armbands and collar pieces.
Egyptians weren’t the only ones with equal male/female treatment when it came to jewelry. In Mesopotamia, men wore earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, pectoral ornaments, and headbands. (At times women did have a few more gender-specific options, including headdresses, belts, and some floral dress pins.) Other cultures that made use of male jewelry were the Akkadians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, as well as most African and Native American tribes. So it seems Europeans were the odd men out in their lack of ornamentation.
Truthfully, although you won’t find too many earrings on European men in the Middle Ages, they weren’t completely without adornment. Forgoing what they considered more feminine relics, they instead chose beauty with a more “masculine” spin, such as gemstones embedded in sword hilts, and they also made use of signet rings, an ornament that could double as a functional piece in letter sealing. It seems no matter how far back you look – and no matter where – you will always find some decorative outlet, regardless of gender distinctions.