What Exactly Are Cufflinks?

riemer prague cufflinks

Cufflinks are a great way to add a touch of personal style and flare to an outfit; whether it’s for work or a more formal occasion, there are lots of different styles of cufflinks available for every need.

Cufflinks are an alternative to having buttons of the cuffs of a shirt. Some shirts, namely dress shirts, have holes rather than buttons on the cuffs to allow for cufflinks. However if you had a particular shirt you would like to wear cufflinks with, it is very easy to have the buttons removed and a small hole added.

Cufflinks are a great way to add a touch of personal style and flare to an outfit; whether it’s for work or a more formal occasion, there are lots of different styles of cufflinks available for every need.  Gentleman can also wear additional matching accessories that can be purchased in the form of dress sets. These include cufflinks, collar studs and sometimes tie pins.

mother of pearl gold cufflinks

Shown here is a set of Riemer Prague mother-of-pearl and gold cufflinks.

A Brief History

Although we have found evidence of cufflinks dating back as far as the 1600s, they didn’t become something that was common to use until the late 18th century.

During the early 19th century more people starting moving up to the middle classes, and men began to wear a more conventional wardrobe:  a suit in the daytime and either a dinner jacket or tailcoat in the evening. Throughout the 19th century, cufflinks grew in popularity and every man in the middle and uppercases were wearing them. With the help of the industrial revolution, they could be mass produced in a wide variety of materials, meaning there were choices in a wide variety of styles and prices.

During this time, cufflinks were of more plain designs and you would have to be a very self-confident man to venture into the world of gemstone or colored cufflinks.  King Edward VII actually started the color trend by wearing colorful Fabergé cufflinks.

rare rose gold cuff links

This set of rare Faberge rose gold enamel diamond cuff links sold for $4800 in 2015.

As we moved into the 20th century, designers started experimenting with styles and designs. As their popularity grew and more cufflinks were being worn than ever before, they become more widely available and made from a wider range of materials, including precious and non-precious metals as well as gemstones and simulants. Enamel cufflinks with geometric designs also became popular at this time.

However, this was also around the time that a sportier style of shirt became available on the market with unstarched cuffs. This meant they could be fastened with buttons instead of having to use cufflinks.

As the world got back on its feet after the dip in the economy that was related to the Second World War, gentlemen started to adorn themselves with different types of accessories such as signet rings, cigarette cases, lighters, tie accessories, wristwatches and of course cufflinks.

In the 70s the popularity of cufflinks took a plunge as the middle class young adults of this era (the Woodstock generation) favored a more casual style of dress. This meant those who did wear shirts tended to opt for ones with simple buttons on the cuffs. Due to this new trend, many cufflinks passed down as family heirlooms were turned into earrings.

In the 1980s the popularity of cufflinks started to rise again and that has continued today with traditional male dress making a comeback.

How to Wear Cufflinks

The most common and traditional way to wear cufflinks is called “kissing cuffs.” It is very easy to achieve and we would recommend this way for any formal events:

  1. Make sure that the cufflink is open to make it as easy as possible to insert.
  2. Line the two holes in the cuffs up and pinch the cuffs together, hence “kissing.”
  3. Slide the cufflink through the two holes, make sure that the decorative face is pointing up so that it is on the outside of the cuff.
  4. When it is all the way though, lock the cufflinks in place but turn the bar (if it has one) into the horizontal position.

This technique can be used for both single cuff and French cuffs (doubled over), just make sure that you line the holes up correctly.

There is a second more casual way to wear cufflinks known as barrel cuffs. Instead of pinching the cuffs together, lay one over the top of the other to line up the hole. This will give more of a sportier and slimming look.  This is more of a modern way of wearing cufflinks, because of this we wouldn’t recommend it for black tie events or when using French cuffs. But it can be a great alternative look to give your shirt a slightly different fit.

peal vintage cuff links

This beautiful set of pearl and precious stone gold vintage cufflinks sold for $31 in March of 2016.

Today there are more styles and designs of cufflinks made than ever before, from plain or gemstone formal styled cufflinks to novelty style for a fun look. There is a type out there to suit everyone with some companies even designing and manufacturing cufflinks specifically for women.  The WorthPoint Worthopedia price guide actually has over 183,000 prices listed for cufflinks sold.


Emma Wright is part of the luxury goods sales team and web content contributor at A.C. Silver; specializing in luxury antique jewelry and silverware. Emma has a strong passion for the world of antiquities and jewelry, with particular interest in the uses of silverware and all things Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

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