Fueling the gains, she says, is "a return to more formal business attire, with men wanting to buy tie tacks and cufflinks. It's not all about watches anymore."
High-end marketers are leading the way. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, is seeing a brisk business in its cufflink sales this holiday, says Michael Macko, VP and men's fashion director. "These are not your classic jewelry customers. This is a generation who grew up with no ties at all, and now they're discovering all kinds of sartorial statements, like bow-ties, cardigans, and French-cuff shirts."
And back in May, Tiffany announced it had chosen Japan as its first for-men-only store.
Danziger expects these strong sales to continue throughout 2007. In Unity Marketing's quarterly surveys of luxury purchases, the incidence of men's jewelry purchases "rose each quarter this year to a high of 12% at the close of the third quarter 2007, compared to a historic level of 5% purchase incidence in 2006."
What's happening, says Danziger, who is also the author of Shopping: Why We Love It and How Retailers Can Create the Ultimate Customer Experience, is that men are becoming increasingly comfortable with the expertise they've gained buying women's jewelry "and are now willing to use that expertise on themselves." In addition to cuff links and tie bars, says Macko, sales of bracelets and necklaces have been strong, as have ring sales, reflecting a rise in gay marriages.
Watches continue to be in a category all by themselves. On one hand, Macko says, they continue to be the status purchase-the thing a man splurges on when he turns 40 or makes partner at the law firm. "For certain guys, watches are like toys," he says. "They love them." And certainly, sales of fine and formal watches have been strong, growing 39% in the 2004-to-2006 period, Unity says.
But between consumer uncertainty about the economy and the tendency of younger consumers to rely on cell phones rather than wristwatches, experts wonder how long watches will stay hot. "This category may start to slide as many younger consumers reject watches as a 'status symbol'," says Unity, adding that while one third of jewelry consumers agree with the statement, 'I generally don't wear a watch much any more, since I use my cell phone to keep time,' that number jumps to 48% of those aged 25-34, and 51% of consumers aged 18-24.
It's possible that some of those young people may enter the men's jewelry market through decidedly fringier trends, whether it's the jumbo diamond earrings worn by professional athletes or the flashy medallions favored by musicians. Even influential fashion designers are wearing diamond earrings, Macko says. "It's a look that's very young in sprit," he says.
And yes, when they buy gemstones, Danziger says "men prefer diamonds, just as women do." Who knows? Diamonds may turn out to be a boy's best friend.