Some revolutions shatter boundaries with a crash and a bang; others arrive on tiptoe and, with a whisper, change the rules forever. Up until a very few years ago, a guy with a diamond Art Deco brooch winking from his black-tie ensemble would at least raise an eyebrow—and the fellow you went to high school with who has now paired his Hanes T-shirt with a single strand of pearls would elicit—well, if not a guffaw, at least a titter. But no longer.
Women have for decades helped themselves to male-identified jewelry—the signet ring, those massive two-ton wristwatches. No one blinks an eye when we string an antique pocket watch around our necks or have a chunky ID bracelet cut down so that it fits our wrist. The clean lines of men’s jewelry, along with the charm and edge of androgyny, have long seduced women, but lately men have begun crossing the aisle as well. Which is why Tiffany & Co., for the first time in its nearly 200-year history, is launching Tiffany Lock, a bracelet the company describes as “all-gender” with an ethos of “No rules. All welcome.”
“It’s all about unity, belonging, the universal bonds that tie us together forever—and the open-minded spirit of today’s generation,” says Alexandre Arnault, Tiffany’s executive vice president of product and communication. Arnault, who himself is just 30, brought Beyoncé and Jay-Z into the Tiffany fold, a spectacular example of the brand’s commitment to a fresh perspective.
What today’s generation wants, according to Arnault, is an elegant, streamlined, elongated bangle available in yellow, white, or rose gold, sometimes enhanced with diamonds. And of course, like all bangles, the Tiffany Lock simply cries out for company—why would any arm, regardless of gender, be satisfied sporting a single rose gold example when it could be joined with, say, a diamond-studded yellow gold sibling?
The Tiffany Lock bracelet’s padlock motif has a long history with the house. First employed as a working latch in the late 19th century—to protect the secrets in your strongbox, perhaps—it reappeared in the 1950s, and from then on its form and shape have informed brooches, necklaces, money clips, and those iconic key rings. The mechanism that opens the lock, meanwhile, is a bit of an engineering feat: The clasp features an innovative swivel that echoes the functionality of a padlock.
Asked whether he thinks all jewelry in the future will be gender-neutral, Arnault demurs. Certain collections, like Tiffany’s HardWear, were originally intended for women, “but you see a lot of men wearing it now,” he says—and he is sure there are gentlemen out there flaunting Elsa Peretti’s bone cuff; after all, he has already seen them sporting that designer’s Diamonds by the Yard chains.
That said, Arnault believes that some categories may prove more challenging. Traditional diamond and engagement rings remain overwhelmingly the province of women. As Arnault—who married Géraldine Guyot, cofounder of accessories brand Destree, last year—explains, “I don’t expect our high-jewelry clients to be men anytime soon—it is still very feminine, and at the moment, 100 percent of those clients are women,” he tells me. (Just you wait,Monsieur Arnault, I think but don’t say—any day now, some hunky movie star or brawny athlete will show up flaunting the high-jewelry necklace he bought for himself, and you will stand up and cheer.)
In any case, when it comes to gender-specific jewelry, the best-laid plans can be delightfully disrupted. “Last summer we launched a range of engagement rings for men—diamond rings that were meant to be more masculine,more suitable for a man’s finger,” Arnault remembers. But
no sooner had those rings appeared than a woman in his office at Tiffany snatched one up. And now, he confesses, “I see it on her hand every single day.”