Shirts with French cuffs—which are cuffs with two buttonholes instead of one buttonhole plus a button—are designed for cufflinks (or cuff links, as they are sometimes spelled). Some cufflinks feature straps that wrap around the outside edges of a shirt’s cuffs, but most cufflinks feature an embellished surface that is worn facing out, as well as a pivoting post that discreetly secures the decorative side of the cufflink to the cuff.
In the late 19th century, as Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts vied with Edwardian sensibilities for style supremacy, cufflinks were often made of 14-karat gold and set with everything from onyx to agates. Lion heads were popular designs, as were cufflinks made from Roman coins. At the turn of the 20th century, a manufacturer called Fenwick and Sailor made numerous styles of cufflinks that resembled charms on a charm bracelet.
By the 1920s and ’30s, enameling techniques common to other types of jewelry—from rings to bracelets to brooches—had found their way to cufflinks. South of the U.S. border, Mexican silversmiths in Taxco created cufflinks in the shapes of tropical birds and other animals. And at some point, Royal Copenhagen and Wedgwood got into the act, the former creating pillow-like porcelain cufflinks in the firm’s trademark blue, the latter producing cameo cufflinks out of Jasperware.
The functional design of these cufflinks was as varied as their decorations. Instead of a pivoting post, some so-called “dumbbell” or shank-style cufflinks would feature a backing piece that was just small enough to squeeze through the cuff’s buttonholes. Small lengths of slender chain were substituted for posts in some designs, while double-face cufflinks (also referred to as double-side or double-panel cufflinks) had no “good” or “bad” side since both faces were richly detailed.
Cufflinks achieved a cachet of cool after World War II, when the sophisticated man about town kept a collection of cufflinks on hand that rivaled his array of neckties. In the 1960s in particular, a company called Swank was making 12-million pair a year, most of them big and brassy as costume jewelry. Crown shapes were a popular Swank design, as were cufflinks that showed off large chunks of topaz, smoky quartz, and other semi-precious stones. Swank also made cufflinks for Masons and other fraternal orders, while Hugh Hefner sold his devotees square black cufflinks with a white bunny at their centers.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
The Black Tie Guide
All About Jewels Dictionary
Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Fashion Columbia Study Collection
Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery
Clubs & Associations
- International Cuff Link Association
- American Society of Jewelry Historians
- Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts
- Society of Jewellery Historians
Other Great Reference Sites
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Recent News: Cufflinks
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Those CufflinksJewschool, December 4th
Those Cufflinks. by adanielroth [?] · Wednesday, December 4th, 2013. Last year a friend who had just finished participating in a Birthright program was telling me of his harrowing journey and mentioned that they had gone to the City of David. I said...Read more
Australia: Defence Department defends production of pride flag cufflinksPinkNews.co.uk, December 4th
The Australian Department of Defence has adamantly defended its production of pride flag cufflinks and lapel pins for soldiers. An Army Reserve soldier from Queensland, Major Bernard Gaynor, hit out at the decision to have the pieces made, saying that...Read more
Officially Licensed Star Wars Neckwear From Cufflinks, Inc.TheForce.net, December 3rd
Cufflinks, Inc. has a terrific selection of new neckwear featuring various Star Wars themes bound to make all fans happy. We've received a few items for review, and at first glance these items are top notch, well made, and include cool sleek black and...Read more
Rainbow Flag Army Pride Lapel Pin & CufflinksABC Online (blog), November 28th
The Australian Army has made their support for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex recruits more visible than ever. They've created rainbow flag lapel pins and cufflinks with the army's rising sun at the centre. In their words: "On the Army...Read more
New pins show pride in theArmySame Same, November 24th
The Australian Defence Force is now showing its inclusive policy on LGBTI recruits like never before – with new rainbow lapel pins and cufflinks. “The Army Pride Lapel Pin is a symbol of the Army's commitment to supporting and acknowledging our lesbian...Read more
Look out for David Cameron's Kiwi cufflinks at PMQsDaily Mail, November 18th
David Cameron has to wear Kiwi cufflinks at Prime Minister's Questions tomorrow after losing a wager with his New Zealand opposite number, John Key, when the All Blacks beat England 30-22 on Saturday. Canny Key told the PM: 'Dear David, those NZ cuff ...Read more
David Cameron faces Kiwi cufflink forfeit after losing bet on England rugby matchMirror.co.uk, November 17th
But after the match, Mr Cameron was forced to agree to wearing Kiwi cufflinks on the floor of the house and said he would be making a donation to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. Cameron's counterpart, Mr Key couldn't resist having a little dig back...Read more
Holiday | The Daily Gift: Star Wars Darth Vader and Yoda Cuff LinksNew York Times (blog), November 11th
Celebrate his geek chic with these limited-edition Star Wars cuff links, available as a pair of Darth Vaders or Yodas. Hand-carved and made of 14-karat gold, they'd also look nice as part of a tableau, alongside other beautiful little objects. $4,000...Read more