Looking sharp

All designs and photographs by William Henry.

Nothing wrinkles the forehead of a shopper like the bane of buying for the man who has everything. Really, we women can be so easy to check off the holiday gift list, thanks to the trillion spinning cases of dangles, bangles and baubles. But jewelry for men?

“Men are famously difficult to buy for when it comes to jewelry,” says Win Betteridge of Greenwich’s Betteridge Jewelers. “There is simply not much jewelry that a conservative man is going to wear comfortably.”

Rob Woodrow of Rye’s R&M Woodrow Jewelers says in the last 20 years demand for men’s necklaces, bracelets and rings has “totally disappeared.” He’ll carry some David Yurman items for the rare interested party – and a Neiman Marcus rep says Yurman pieces are a good bet if you happen to be in the market – but mostly it’s just wedding rings (if that) among the local crowd.

“If they are young, it’s even tougher,” Woodrow says. “If somebody comes in here looking for a gift for a young man, if it’s not a watch, forget about it.”

And how many watches can one guy have?

But just because demand for traditional jewelry has dwindled, demand for gifts for the discerning male hasn’t. So Woodrow looked outside the (jewelry) box for an inspired option, and he found it with a 6-foot 2-inch Georgia boy selling pocket knives.

“I call myself a cultured redneck,” says Kerry Cromer. He’s a former model who’s traveled the world and is now the regional rep for William Henry, the men’s luxury goods brand. His biggest sellers are the company’s extravagant pocket knives.

“We use dinosaur bone, meteorite, mammoth tooth, all exotic materials,” Cromer says. “And they’re all numbered. Every piece is different. So if you own a piece of William Henry, you absolutely own a one of a kind.”

The Lancet “Knucker” has an inlay of 100,000-year-old fossil coral with patterns of deep sea blue, and the amber-hued dinosaur bone on the Ventana “Katsumi” comes from a 100 million-year-old Apatosaurus. And lest the ladies forget that diamonds aren’t only a girl’s best friend, the Lancet “Golden Mile” features a bevy of brown diamonds and citrines in nickel silver. Their blades are Damascus steel – beautifully patterned and with a particularly powerful reputation.

“Our knives are the Rolls Royce of pocket knives,” Cromer says.

Classic, elegant and pricey, yes – but these are also made in America. Editions run in a quantity of less than 1,000, with many running less than 100 and as little as five. Buyers can even request custom pieces of the knives for tailor-made “jewelry,” as Cromer calls it, that’s both artful and practical.

“People ask me, ‘What is my husband going to do with a pocket knife?’ and I laugh,” he says. “Those same people come back to me and say, ‘My husband can’t leave the house without it.’ If an envelope needs opening, they cut it with a knife. If there’s a loose string on their suit, they cut it with a knife. If you have a knife, you find many uses for it. And that’s the truth.”

Cromer adds with his Southern twang that lots of folks still remember when men never left the house without their pocket knife, pocket watch and handkerchief. Woodrow says his dad used a pocket knife every day to cut an apple. And for a man with high taste, what’s more elegant than accomplishing utilitarian tasks with a functional piece of art?

“The knives make for impressive gifts for the Dad who has everything but appreciates the weird and wonderful,” says Betteridge, who also carries William Henry in Greenwich.

Money clips are still in the game, too. And though according to Cromer (and Woodrow) they don’t sell quite as big, like knives they let men make a stylish statement.

“Men have taste just like women,” Cromer says. “A money clip is an extension of their personality, and they never go out of style.”

We all know the guy who couldn’t care less about toting a wad of dough in a rubber band, but quel faux pas to pull that out after a nice dinner.

“If a man takes out nicely folded cash in a money clip inlaid with a beautiful dinosaur bone, it’s a conversation piece. Then he can say, you know, ‘Oh, this?’” says Cromer, who also knows full well (and firsthand from his modeling days) how men relish the chance to flaunt their goods.

Then there are cuff links, which seem to be having another day, thanks to a pop-culture resurgence in proper haberdashery. A rep for Tiffany & Co. says the brand saw a boost in cuff link sales from its Jazz Age-inspired Ziegfeld Collection after the release of Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby,” which featured the jewelry. Then again, among the pressed three-piece-suit crowd, cuff links are mainstays.

“People who like a classic look are utilizing them,” Woodrow says. “People who have custom-made shirts and that kind of thing in most cases are doing them with cuff links.”

He names Lalique and Baccarat as top picks as well as new, playful, hand-decorated styles from Halcyon Days featuring icons like ships, flags, animals, golf balls and gear shifters.

“Cuff links are loved, because they lend a bit of personality to a man’s style,” says Betteridge, who also stocks a bevy, including “carved gold bulls and bears for the stock-picker or sterling silver fly-fishing lures for the banker who daydreams of trout streams.”

So leave the wrinkles to someone else when you’re looking for your hard-to-buy guy and give functional jewelry a try. You may just inspire a collector, making your future gifting in the bag.

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