Dating back to the seventeenth century, cufflinks came about when men wanted something more elegant for their shirts than ribbons or ties to hold together their cuffs. Men began using small chains that were fastened to the end of a gold or silver button & fed through the holes of the cuff to keep them together. Hence, the first cufflink was born!
Over time, the cuff link developed & became a more sophisticated part of a man’s wardrobe, especially for tuxedo usage & formal attire. With the varying types of stones, precious metals, fabrics, & design, the cuff link became the new well-dressed man’s staple.
With the onset of the Industrial Revolution, the high production of low-cost cuff links enabled a greater variety of cufflinks to be manufactured. Chains were replaced with rods & fasteners with easy-to-close clips. Shirt makers, eager to sell a larger quantity of higher priced dress shirts caught on to the cuff link frenzy & expanded their lines of formal dress shirts to include cufflink-ready attire. Sales boomed & men flaunted their personalities as they sported their new look with cufflinks & matching stud sets.
During the nineteenth century, businessmen of varying classes began wearing cufflinks & stud sets for more casual wear, expanding beyond the traditional gala or evening event. Prices came down & cuff links were now affordable to the average middle-class gentleman.
In the late twentieth century, the cuff links industry had a low period when shirt manufacturers began mass-producing dress & tuxedo shirts with buttons on the cuffs. But that didn’t discourage the big jewellery companies, like Tiffany & Cartier. Cufflinks & stud sets were here to stay. The cufflink has grown into a popular fashion statement for both men & women alike. Today, cufflinks can be found in any shape or style for all types of dress. From silver, gold, silk, mother-of-pearl, onyx, white gold, & much more, cuff links are making a big comeback with reckless abandon!
Cufflinks, whether they're cuff buttons, flats, chain links, snappers, kum-aparts or one-piece links, are elegant accessories that lend a sparkle to any suit or formal wear.
These miniature works of art actually predate the shirt. According to the National Cufflink Society, evidence of their use can be found in ancient hieroglyphics in King Tut's tomb. But cufflinks as we know them were first used during the 1700s.
No one knows exactly when the cufflink arrived. Its first mention in writing was in 1788, but for sometime before that buttons had ceased to be decorative & cuff-fastening slits were being cut into clothing. The ribbons or tape ties of the past were replaced with luxurious items, often made with gold or silver & set with gemstones. These were an extravagance reserved for the wealthy classes & were all hand-made.
It wasn't until the mid 18th century & the invention of the steam-driven stamping machine, electro-metallurgy & the Tour a' Guilloche machine, which could mass-produce enamel cufflinks, that men's jewellery was opened up to a wider audience. By the 1840s what we now know as the French cuff, or double-cuff shirt became popular - & unlike most fashions it's remained so since. The middle classes adopted cufflinks, but unable to afford the silver or enamel cufflinks they used replicas such as fake diamonds & gold-coloured alloys with foil backing instead. A hair of a lost loved one was traditionally placed under glass on a man's cufflinks as a sign of grief.
During the 1880's in America, George Krementz patented a device based on a civil war cartridge shell-making machine that could mass produce one-piece collar buttons & cufflinks. Suddenly every US business was commissioning cufflinks for advertising or as gift incentives for clients.
During the 1920s the enamel cufflink became the most prevalent style. In Russia, the communist revolution forced the luxury artisans of Faberge to emigrate across Europe & often to America, where they taught their enamelling skills to others. Their designs often reflected the art movements of the day, but by the 1930s low-cost production of plastics led to a decline in the use of enamel. But these enamel cufflinks remain highly collectable; especially the hand-made ones.
Cufflink use peaked in the mid 1960s, when Swank Inc, a popular manufacturer, was making 12 million a year. These days the figure is closer to 200,000. But cufflinks are making a comeback, with gross sales having increased consistently over the last ten years, while the French cuff continues to be the most prestigious type of shirt.
The most expensive cufflinks ever sold were a pair given to the soon-to-be King Edward VIII by his later wife Wallis Simpson. These featured diamonds set in platinum & sold at auction for $440,000.