Fashion comes and goes, and there are certainly some that deserve to be gone. (Think bell bottoms, disco-Lycra and bicycle shorts as casualwear.) Still, there are classic fashion statements that have withstood the test of time. Cuff links remain a special occasion or high-end addition to attire, harkening back to the 17th century.
In the 1600s, shirt cuffs were held closed with “cuff buttons.” Basically, small chains affixed to jeweled buttons that served to control the edges of a man’s blousy shirt sleeve, they were a revolutionary accessory to gentlemen who were accustomed to using bits of lace or ribbon to tie off their sleeves. Initially these tiny attachments were luxuries worn only by royalty and the wealthy elite. This began to change however, when French cuffs came into vogue and cufflinks became necessities.
To meet a growing demand for this popular item, a German immigrant named George Krenentz invented a machine that could mass-produce cuff-links. Before long men and women were enjoying the diminutive accessory.
Over the years various forms of fasteners have been invented to secure these links, including chains, sticks, levers, bar bells and rods. One of the most enduring designs was developed in 1924 by an inventor named Boyer, in which a rotating toggle placed between a double post attached to the back of the link fastened the cuffs. Versions of this toggle bar design are still widely found on most cufflinks today.
Identifying the Best
Lynn Stallard of Windsor, Ontario, specializes in collectible neckties and men’s vintage costume jewelry. She launched the website, www.tiechest.com, identifying vintage cufflinks by construction to date the period.
“Ties have always been a popular accessory item and coupling that with my love of vintage things, I decided to focus on men’s jewelry, including cufflinks,” says Stallard. Often buying cufflinks in bulk for resale, she has made some interesting finds. One such discovery turned out to be very valuable. “I bought one lot of estate jewelry and found a pair of 18K gold cufflinks that appraised for $2,500. I was amazed; it was really quite an unexpected surprise.”
With such a vast variety of vintage cufflinks available, she believes her bestsellers are undoubtedly links with initials. “I think it is because they evoke memories of loved ones, as well as serving as the initial of the purchaser themselves,” says Stallard.
One of her favorite eras is Mid-Century, when quality art deco costume jewelry was created by jewelers such as Swank (which began in 1897), Hickok (which began in 1909) and Georg Jensen (which began in 1904). “They were well-crafted with an attention to detail. Since both men and women were wearing cufflinks, classic vintage designs are becoming popular with everyone today.” Stallard’s website can help you identify cufflinks you may find by vintage marks, from Acmo through X’Andrini.
Finding the Perfect Gift
Closer to home, Gainesville resident and cufflink collector, Ernie Thomason, is also fascinated by vintage links. He fondly remembers his first pair, given to him by his dad before a high school homecoming dance. He still treasures those links, along with several pairs he received while performing with his choral group in college. Equally valued are the cufflinks he inherited from his grandfather.
After 26 years of buying and selling antiques at malls and antiques shows throughout the Southeast, it only seems natural that Thomason would acquire a collection of his own. “One of my favorite pairs I bought in Australia in 2000. They are a happy reminder of that trip and the country that I fell in love with,” says Thomason. Another set he regards highly is a 14K gold pair; each link is inset with mother-of-pearl and accented by a diamond.
While Thomason generally specializes in china, glassware and sterling, he also lists some cufflink finds on his eBay site, “Glasshoppers.” “The best place to find vintage cufflinks is everywhere,” he says. “I look everywhere I go, whether I am at an antiques mall, flea market, estate sale, yard sale, thrift store or auction.” Thomason finds vintage cufflinks are relatively easy to find and generally affordable, presenting a good opportunity for gift buyers and novice collectors.
As always, happy hunting.
Where to Find Vintage Cufflinks
- Dejavu Antiques, 6804 Hwy. 441 North, Dillard
- Elizabeth and Company, 1419 Washington St., Clarkesville
- Gateway Antique Mall, 75 E. Main St., Dahlonega
- Hiawassee Antique Mall, 518 N. Main St., Hiawassee
- Yesterday’s Treasures, 1213 Franklin St., Dillard