A Complete Guide to Cufflinks

Cufflinks have been a standard and classic jewellery gift for men for generations. They're perfect for special occasions, add a touch of class and sophistication to a suit and tie outfit, and there are so many different designs and styles to choose from that it's impossible not to find a pair the man in your life will like. Basically, they're a foolproof gift idea! Here are the essential things you need to know about cufflinks whether you're wearing or just buying, along with a guide to the different styles in our collection.

Origins of Cufflinks

Cufflinks have been around for centuries and have been in and out of fashion several times. They were first regularly used way back in the 16th century. Tailored clothing was one way in which the higher classes distinguished themselves, with better quality materials and accessories to go with them like gemstones and precious metals. Collars and shirt cuffs had to be secured with something... enter the cufflink. It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century that cufflinks really hit their stride, however. Visible areas of shirts were seen as a great opportunity for decoration and embellishment with frills and embroidery, and were secured with ribbons or buttons.

When formal clothing like tailcoats and top hats became the norm, collars and cuffs were starched and so a ribbon wasn't enough to hold them in place. The industrial revolution and mass production made it possible for metal style fasteners to be widely available to everyone, so cufflinks quickly became the standard shirt accessory for men. Cufflinks have gone through countless incarnations since then. Gemstones, bright colours, glass, geometric patterns and anything else you can think of had moments in the spotlight. From the 1960s onwards fashion steadily became more casual, and cufflinks became associated with more formal attire. This association is still prevalent today, and you will usually only see them attached to three piece suits. Thankfully, there are still plenty of occasions when three piece suits are needed.

Types of Cufflinks

The most common type of cufflinks used today is the 'double panel' cufflink. This consists of two small discs connected by either a bar or short chain. There will be a pair of these in each cufflink set, so that's two pieces of two connected discs, one for each cuff. Usually all four discs have matching motifs engraved on the faces, however sometimes the discs facing inwards are left blank. Equally as popular are 'swivel bar' cufflinks, which will have just one disc on each cufflink and a moveable bar which is lined up vertically with the post of the cufflink and then swivelled into a horizontal position to keep the cuff secured. These are sometimes more common than the 'double panel' style as they are slightly easier to use.

Silver Family Crest Cufflinks

An alternative type of cufflink that is rarely seen these days is the silk knot. As you can probably guess, it is made up of two connected silk knots. They remain the most unpopular type because of the cufflinks' association with formal attire; a much better impression is made with a pair of shiny gold or silver engraved cufflinks than with a plain simple silk not. There are technically several other types too that are distinguished by their fastening style – ball backs, coil backs, wrap arounds and toggle links to name just a few – but essentially they all do the same job as the double-panels and swivel bars.

How and When to wear Cufflinks

Back when cufflinks were considered essential to every man's daily wardrobe, the rule was that gold cufflinks were for daytime and silver cufflinks were for evening wear. Today things are a bit more relaxed and it's really about your own personal style. The only time cufflinks are worn today is with French cuff shirts, i.e double cuffs with two holes and no buttons. This is the type of shirt many people wear at weddings, formal dinners, business meetings, and other sophisticated occasions.

Although reserved for the more fancy outings in life, cufflinks are quite possibly the most simple accessory to use. There is no fumbling around with knots or folding fabric in the correct way, just push them through the holes and go. All you have to make sure of is that the engraved face is on the outward part of your sleeve (although if you're wearing the double-faced style then this won't matter). With double panel cufflinks, slide them through the holes as you would a button. With swivel bars, just push the swivel bar through in a vertical position, then manoeuvre it into a horizontal position so that it doesn't fall back out.

Some Do's and Don'ts

There are very few rules when it comes to cufflinks, although there is a certain amount of etiquette that is common. Firstly and most importantly, if you want a style that will go with anything, silver cufflinks are the best choice. Gold can sometimes look out of place with certain colours and styles, plus silver is generally considered to be the more modern and stylish of the two. Choose one style for your outfit and stick to it – mixing gold and silver is a big no-no. As mentioned above, make sure the face is pointing outwards and that your cufflinks are fastened properly and won't fall out half way through the day. If you do indulge in a pair of novelty cufflinks, don't wear them in an inappropriate setting, i.e to a serious business meeting or black tie event - unless what you're aiming for is not to be taken seriously, of course. Monograms, engravings or even just a plain style are perfectly fine. Finally, choose a style that you like! There is no point in buying a pair of cufflinks that you don't want to wear. And if you need some style inspiration, here is a guide to the various designs in our collection.

Ogham Cufflinks

Ogham is an ancient Irish alphabet like no other. Represented by a series of marks along a central line, the different directions and lengths of each mark denotes a 'letter'. Ogham writing was carved into long stones or planks of wood all around Ireland by the Celts and read from the bottom of the stone to the top. Because of its abstract look, Ogham writing is a great way to include a subtle message on your cufflinks; for example, it's a unique twist on having monogrammed cufflinks by using Ogham initials instead of the traditional alphabet. These Ogham cufflinks are engraved with the word 'grá' (love).

Silver Ogham Cufflinks Grá meaning Love

Torc Cufflinks

A Torc is a piece of ancient jewellery worn in many iron age societies, most often by the Celts. They are large rings usually made from gold and are open at the front. They were worn around the neck, and for the Celts, only the most prestigious people wore a torc. For this reason some of the best examples of ancient Celtic jewellery are torcs. They were considered to be a badge of leadership and to offer protection by the Gods, and were often passed down through generations. It may seem somewhat strange to wear something like that around your neck these days, so a cufflink version is much more appropriate.

Torc Cufflinks in Silver from Claddagh Design

Celtic Knot Cufflinks

These are not in fact silk knot cufflinks, but they do have a Celtic knot design. This type of design was used in many different variations in Celtic art and decoration. They are thought to represent the cycle of life and are a symbol of eternity or unity. They are seen in all types of Celtic art, especially on Christian monuments like high crosses and bible manuscripts. Two particularly elaborate examples include the Book of Kells and the Ardagh Chalice. As the design is so central to Irish and Celtic traditions, these cufflinks are a perfect way to show off your Irish heritage.

Silver cufflinks with a Celtic Knot on a shield

Silver Claddagh Cufflinks

The Claddagh symbol is two hands holding a heart with a crown on top. The hands denote friendship, the heart represents love and the crown is for loyalty. It traditionally comes in the form of a ring, and the design originated in Galway in the 17th century. The ring is worn with the heart pointing outwards if you're looking for love, or inwards if you've already found it. It is the most recognised symbol in Irish jewellery and has been used as a token of affection between friends and lovers in Ireland for centuries. These dome shaped claddagh cufflinks make a good men's alternative to a ring.

Family Crest Cufflinks

Family crest cufflinks are the perfect way to make a gift really personal. These are dome shaped silver cufflinks with a swivel bar, and any family crest can be engraved.

Silver Family Crest Cufflinks

Click on the image to be taken to the Custom Jewelry order form if you'd like a pair of Cufflinks like this

The set of cufflinks pictured above feature a rampant lion which is the O’Connor coat of arms. The cufflinks below feature a boar which is the O’ Sullivan family coat of arms.

Click on the image to order your own set
Click on the image to order your own set

Custom Cufflinks

As all of our jewellery is hand made we can produce custom made pieces on request. So if family crest cufflinks aren't personal enough, we can work with you to come up with an even more unique design. Custom pieces take a few weeks to complete and come packaged in a polished wooden presentation box. We can deliver to anywhere in the world. If you'd like some inspiration, some of the custom made pieces have been featured on this blog.

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