If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s the importance and power of being together. June is pride month, marking 52 years since the New York Stonewall Riots in June 1969. Since the riots, Pride has been all about uplifting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a global fight for their rights. This may seem surprising in 2021, but homophobia and transphobia is still rife around the world, even in countries that have passed both non-discriminatory legislation and pro LGBTQ+ laws. As stated by the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, there is plenty to celebrate but also plenty to be done.
Source - Yoav Hornung Via Unsplash
As an antique and vintage jewellery country, there is little we can do to change legislation, but we can certainly do our bit to help change the public perception in our own way, especially towards jewellery!
For centuries jewellery has almost exclusively been a feminine and womanly domain, with glittering Diamond brooches, Pearl necklaces and gemstone-set rings largely only crafted for the female populace. But with this little blog, we wanted to show how it's far more than that and that anyone who loves expressing themselves can appreciate, love and wear our jewellery!
To live an authentic, joy-filled life, you have to love yourself and own who you are, and with the right jewellery and confidence by your side, it makes it just that little bit easier. Whether you are gay or straight, non-binary or transgender, all of our jewels will make you feel like the person you are, the person you're meant to be, and will hopefully help you connect with your inner power and release it to the world.
A Little History of Jewellery and Gender
Despite women dominating the jewellery conversation in the last 150 years, it might surprise you to hear that men have also been bedecking themselves in a bevvy of jewels since the dawn of time...
Just like women, men wore jewels to profess their religious & secular power. Fine jewellery was an instant communicator to foreign diplomats and dignitaries. As far back as Ancient Egypt, Gold was the ultimate symbol of wealth, so men would not only be covered in it at all times, but they would also be buried in it too. And, in Ancient Rome, men wore precious gemstones of Diamonds, Amber, Emeralds and Sapphires.
Who knew that men were such an important and established part of the glitterati!?
Ancient Roman Gold Necklace with Crescent Shaped Necklace, c.1st - 3rd Century AD, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In the Medieval period and Renaissance, jewellery was part of the regal refinement of the Catholic church, which meant that only kings, queens, bishops and noblemen would be seen wearing jewellery. Not to mention, up until the Baroque period (c.18th century), sumptuary legislation only allowed the very top of society to be wearing rare jewels. So, because it was such a prestige to be wearing jewellery, it really didn’t matter who was wearing the jewels as long as you were high up in society.
The most famous kings in history Henry VIII and Louis XIV absolutely loved wearing jewellery. These men weren’t afraid to be covered in jewels, with gemstones like Pearls, Rubies, and Sapphires, physically sewn in their garments. These heavy and cumbersome clothes would have been very difficult to wear, not to mention outrageously expensive. In actual fact, because of the weight, wearing lots of jewellery was actually a physical, visible reflection of the king’s physical strength!
Portrait of Henry VIII, Hans Holbein The Younger, c.1542, Source - Wikimedia Commons
In the 18th century, men’s jewellery became more refined, relegated to smaller accents rather than huge pendants or Diamond set rings. However, it was still just as sparkly as women’s jewels. For instance, men wore Paste buckles on their shoes, bejewelled buttons and cufflinks in their shirts and stick pins in their cravats. But, it wasn’t until the 19th century that jewellery almost exclusively became part of a woman’s wardrobe.
This was due to a multitude of factors, yet the most notable was the change in perception of the ideal Victorian man.
Georgian Paste Buckle, c.1770, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
The construction of Victorian masculinity was hugely influenced by economy, gender roles, religion, imperialism, and sports. In 19th century Christianity, it was integral that a man would be both a faithful believer and the head of the household, active with the public spheres and being the breadwinners of the family. Men were also expected to be of great health, which meant plenty of physical exertion - not a lot of time to be wearing fine jewellery!
Military and patriotic values were shaped by imperialism, creating the ideal man to be a hunter, pioneer, and an academic, ready to defend their country in the British Empire if needs be.
This sense of endurance and hardness was reflected in Victorian men’s fashion with darker colours, straight cuts and stiff materials. That being said, this was also the time where “toxic masculinity” can be dated back to. Toxic masculinity is the idea that a person’s “manliness” feeds aggression, homophobia, and misogyny.
From the 1870s onwards, strength and stoicism was considered an ideal trait of a man, with hyper-masculinity enforced from a young age. With this in mind, homosexuality, display of femininity and drag was viewed as a punishable offence, and in 1885, it was deemed under the Criminal Law amendment as “gross indecency”.
Victorian Men's Fashions from 1872, The Gazette of Fashion, Source - Wikimedia Commons
With that in mind, Victorian’s men jewellery was strictly limited to Albert chains, medal fobs, signet rings, and keeper rings. The look and feel of the jewellery was designed to express their masculinity and strength, with heavy Gold and Silver, dark gems like Carnelian and Bloodstone (two gemstones that were also symbolic of masculinity), and a lack of ornamentation. To be honest, this has basically remained this way until the 21st century.
However, (thankfully!) in the past 10 years or so, there's been an increasing amount of discourse around toxic masculinity and traditional masculine codes of dress, due in part to the bravery of the free-thinkers that have gone before us, and the success and acceptance of Pride as a more mainstream celebration today.
18" Victorian Gold Albert Chain, Source - Lillicoco
Although homosexuality wasn’t decriminalised until 1967 LGBTQ activists of the time did succeed in changed the public perception of masculinity and femininity for the better. Unisex and gender fluid jewellery is one of the most recent creations of jewellery designers, with pieces designed and marketed for both men and women.
Yet, disappointingly many designers are trying to get “best of both worlds” for jewels, with a subdued monochromatic palette and minimalistic shape. Whilst it is great that this has a “caters for all” approach, it seems that these designs are formerly embracing more masculine design features rather than feminine.
In Hollywood, however, there has been a change, most notably straight cis-gender male performers like Harry Styles and Chadwick Boseman have been photographed wearing frilled ensembles, Diamond brooches, Pearl necklaces and bejewelled earrings to award ceremonies. So, if you find yourself reaching towards a gemstone cluster brooch or a blue Paste necklace, but you are worried about what people will think - just channel your inner Billy Porter or Elton John! Loving yourself and accepting your style choices is a must-have for happiness, which aptly leads us on to our next part of the blog...
Why you must embrace your own style and identity
Building a positive relationship between yourself and how your dress is vital to the development and enhancement of your self-esteem. It is no secret that our self-esteem is significantly lowered if there is a discrepancy between your actual self and your perceived self. We can feel frustration and disappointment with the person who we want to be, rather than who we actually are. In many ways, clothes and jewellery can bridge this gap, projecting an outward curated image, and in turn visually communicating who you are and what you stand for. Clothes and jewellery therefore play an emotional and important role in our day to day lives, one that can be easily overlooked.
With this in mind, our “Don’t Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle” campaign shows YOU that no matter your gender orientation, if you love jewellery, then you should buy it and wear it. We should embrace change, reject tradition, and find what makes us actually feel good in ourselves.
Our identity is something we need to keep a firm grip on for our own mental health, and it is one of the few constants we need to keep with us for the rest of our lives. Living an authentic self can make you happier, confident, and more susceptible to deal with life’s twists and turns. It shouldn't need us to say this, but your style and choices are valid, whether they come in a glittering Diamond brooch or a chunky Albert chain. Here is our "Don't Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle" campaign, showing you that wearing an Amethyst riviere, Garnet cluster ring or bold signet is not limited to what gender you are.
The Importance of Pride Month
Although it can be easy to mistake Pride for one huge rainbow-filled party, it’s actually an incredibly important occasion, and it’s still integral that we remember and honour it’s revolutionary roots. With the increasing criticism over Pride becoming a commercialised commodity, (coined the “Pink Pound”, Pride is believed to bring around £6 billion a year to the UK economy alone), and the fact that homophobic and transgender related hate crimes are still prevalent around the world, we decided to highlight as many reasons as possible as to why Pride is still just as important as it was 50 years ago.
Even though homosexuality was decriminalised in the 1960s, outward homophobia and inner homophobic bias was still rife in society. In the 1950s, the American government considered gay and lesbian people as “security risks” because they were “prone to blackmail”. In 1952, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and during the 1950s and 1960s, the FBI and local police departments kept lists of known homosexuals, as well as frequently shutting down gay bars. In the early 1960s New York specifically, there was a political campaign to rid the entire city of gay bars by 1964 (where the city was hosting the next Worlds Fair). This came to a head in 1969 in New York, where police raided the Stonewall Inn, a notable gay bar in the district. Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam war, the LGBTQ+ community had enough. During this hot summer night, a rebellion ignited a liberation movement and Pride. Outside the Stonewall inn 500 to 600 people protested against the violent police raid.
Source - Robin Ooode via Unsplash
Subsequently afterwards, numerous pop up marches were all over the New York city streets. A year later in 1970, an assembly was organised on Christopher Street, and two marches in Los Angeles and Chicago were organised too. These are known as the first official “Pride” events, and soon enough LGBTQ+ activists were organising them in more American cities and around the world. Only two years later, there were numerous major gay liberation organisations in America, Canada and Europe. For many people, the Stonewall riots were a symbolic call to arms, and the beginning of decisive action.
Since then Pride has snowballed to becoming the stratospheric global event that it is known as today. Whilst there have been many major positive changes in LGBTQ+ legislation, there is always plenty more to be done.
Source - Teddy Osterbblom via Unsplash
We want to formally introduce you to Stonewall, one of the leading LGBTQ+ organisations in the world, illustrates published a shocking range of statistics in 2018 surrounding homophobia and transphobia in the UK and globally. Here are a few statistics that really resonated with us:
- Four in five LGBTQ+ have experienced a hate crime and not reported it to the police.
- Nearly half (54%) of LGBTQ+ youths are bullied in schools.
- 72 countries still criminalise same sex relationships, and 8 countries still regard death penalty as an appropriate punishment for a same sex relationship.
If you want to learn more, then we strongly encourage that you visit Stonewall website. Nevertheless, since the start of Pride, there has been so many positive changes for the LGBTQ+ community. Millions of people attend Pride events around the world each year, and since the 1980s, 131 countries have reported increased acceptance surrounding LGBTQ+ community. It's so wonderful to think that now more than ever the LGBTQ+ community are feeling safer and loved. Of course, there is still work to be done, but through education and collective action, we can dismantle the archaic systems in place. Our subversion of gender roles in jewellery aims to tackle one of these preconceived ideas, about who can wear jewellery and what jewellery you should wear! No matter whether its "masculine" or "feminine", you should wear whatever jewellery you like, and trust us, we bet you look absolutely amazing!
Let us know what you think of our photographs! We love each and every one of them, but does it make you rethink what jewellery you gravitate towards and why? We would love to see your comments below!