Men’s jewellery has a new (yet very old) obsession: the medallion. Like signet rings, their charm is in the power of personalisation — and options to make them your own are broad. Some come with 3D symbols or plenty of room for lettering, while others are studded with precious stones. There are the chunkier gold coins that swing by the sternum, and more delicate discs that sit close to the neck.
“I became intrigued by the history of medallion-wearing, which I found dates back to as early as ancient Greek and Roman times,” says Michael Saiger, founder and creative director of Miansai, a brand making sleek, industrial jewellery for the modern man. The Miami-born designer grew up surrounded by meaningful objects in his mother’s antique store, and works to embed the same antiquity in his creations. “Men wore them as a status symbol, often with gold coins serving as the medal and one’s wealth on full display.” For Miansai, he has brought the style up to date with elegant and playful twists. His best pendants come circular, with tiger’s faces and emerald eyes or oval shaped and embossed with patterns inspired by the lines of swirling sand pendulums. His advice when choosing? “Look for something that’s timeless over trendy.”
If you need convincing that this is jewellery’s new staple, look no further than the flock of celebrities mixing menswear up. Jordan Barrett, the tanned supermodel friend of Kate Moss, wears his long with a thick gold chain and white vest in daytime, and choker length, with gleaning crystals on the face as night falls. Singer Shawn Mendes likes a pop of colour, and styles them with a silky shirt peeled open, while Jaden Smith piles his over a collar and tie, stacked up with plastic smiley face charms and strings of pearls.
“We see a lot of prominent male celebrities becoming more experimental with their style,” says British jeweller Monica Vinader, “[so] the interest in our men’s line has definitely grown.” And medallions have always been part of the picture for her. “Jewellery in general tends to possess a lot of sentimental value,” she says. “This is often most true with medallions. It can be visible with specific engravings, for example, horoscopes or initials, or can represent a relationship between the wearer and whoever gave it to them.” Vinader suggests her Marie Mini pendant for any first time buyers. It was one of the original designs she launched her company with 13 years ago, and it’s lightly patterned, recycled gold vermeil disc has stayed a best seller to date. After more edge? Head to Alighieri. The cult jeweller who won the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design in 2020 does double coin necklaces with a rough exterior, as if plucked straight out of an archaeological dig.
Maxim De Turckheim, senior buyer for fine watches and jewellery at Mr Porter, says: “Men are becoming increasingly adventurous, moving away from typically safer looks such as beaded bracelets and signets, towards more bold and colourful pieces.” His recommendation is east London based designer Duffy’s emerald and gold pendant. “It has been engraved by the most skilled of jewellers and you will never see anyone else wearing it.”
Still unsure? Don’t be, says De Turckheim. “A medallion is one of the easiest things for a man to wear. They have a very masculine and primal feel.” This time around, you needn’t be in Rome to do as the Romans do.
This is our pick of the best: