Yesterday, we introduced the first European cuff link exhibition, which took place in 2011. It was organized by the impassioned Belgian collector cuff link collector and menswear designer Guy-David Lambrechts, who published a adjacent text on cuff links called: Antique Cufflinks 1860 – 1960. The term book may be almost be an under exaggeration, since this massive encyclopedic stunner measures 13 x 13 x 2 inches (32x32x5cm) and weighs an astonishing 9 pounds (about 4kg) !
In Antique Cufflinks: 1860-1960, Mr.Lambrechts presents the first comprehensive picture catalogue of one of the gentleman’s most defining accessories. Exploding onto the fashion scene at the 1862 World Exhibition in London, cufflinks are an art form in miniature that captures the social essence of its time.
Interestingly, Mr. Lambrechts’ grandfather in the fifth generation attended this very World Exhibition and was fascinated by these little pieces of cuff jewelry. As a direct result, he ordered the first Belgian cufflinks that were ever made. Fortunately, they still exist today and Guy-David is still wearing them!
History of Cuff Links
Although this book is huge, it is dominated by photographs and contains less text than one might assume. Nevertheless, it contains interesting, first hand insights into the world of cufflinks.
In the book, Guy-David describes how cuff jewelry was used to impress others, communicate one’s wealth or convey status of mourning. Some gentlemen even had pictures of their mistresses hidden in their cufflinks underneath a special mechanism. Today, we can confirm this, because the pictures show women with loose hair; no proper woman would have worn her hair down, nor would her picture need to be cleverly hidden.
Titanic Cuff Links
My personal highlight in this book is a pair of cufflinks from the Titanic! Remarkably, it’s another family tale. One of Mr. Lambrechts’ ancestors was tempted to board the Titanic in first class with some friends, but as a stakeholder in the rival Red Star Line, he followed his financial loyalties and boarded a Red Star ship. He may also have been put off by the cost; a first class ticket on the Titanic would have cost him roughly $90,000 in today’s money!
After the Titanic collided with the iceberg, the first class passengers, were informed that they could take a boat ride to see the Titanic from the water while they were stopped. Having paid so much money, they assumed they would get their own boat. Apparently nobody in first class knew at that time that the “unsinkable” ship was sinking.
Once they were away from the boat, they realized that the ship was actually sinking. When some of the passengers tried to row back, others convinced them that they would die immediately under the weight of the desperate trying to get into the boat. Instead, they elected to get into one boat and to send an empty boat back; by the time it finally reached the other passengers, most had already died in the ice cold water.
The friends of Mr. Lambrechts’ grandfather survived. One of them had bought a pair of cuff links depicting the Titanic which were exclusively available in the barber shop on the ship. Upon his arrival in New York City, the owner promptly gave them to Mr. Lambrechts’ grandfather; on the one hand, he did not want to have anything to do with the catastrophe and on the other hand, he knew that the grandfather was a cuff link collector.
As they were handed down as part of the family cuff link collection, Guy-David Lambrechts now owns one of the very few pairs – maybe the only one – from the Titanic.
Apart from such circumstantial rarities, Guy-David counts numerous other rare cuff links to his name. Among them are the very first pair of BMW cufflinks, Czar-era Fabergé links and micro mosaic cufflinks.
In the first 173 pages, the book is divided in decades, with each section covering all kinds of cufflinks from every period between 1860 – and 1960. The following section is categorized by the materials used in constructing a selection of cufflinks, such as agate and woodstone. Altogether, there are roughly 4000 high quality photographs of cufflinks! Amazingly, the range of links in the book does not account for even half of Mr. Lambrecht’s collection!
The paper and the binding of the book are of the utmost quality. Unlike the general trend, this book was not printed in Asia but rather in Belgium. This way, Mr. Lambrechts could insure that everything was the way he wanted it to be. The outside of the book is covered in a brown faux crocodile leather and has gold imprint lettering. Just like the Gary Cooper or Anderson & Sheppard book,
it has a cover, though overall the workmanship is of higher quality.
The photographs in this book are truly superb. Guy-David compared jewelry pictures of 50 different photographers before he settled on the one who produced these images.
The content of this book is very special and unique. You will find information not found anywhere else, because it is all based on the history of this family cuff link collection built over five generations.
Since Mr. Lambrechts is Belgian, his mother tongue is not English but he nevertheless wanted to write the book himself. Consequently, there might be some passages in the book which seem odd or incorrect to a native English speaker, but overall, I still think it is a great book. The pictures alone are worth a fortune.
Antique Cufflinks 1860 – 1960 is limited to just 3,000 numbered copies worldwide, and hence it is an absolute rarity. It is not available on amazon or the comparable platforms. For inquires about the book, you will need to contact Mr. Guy-David Lambrechts directly.
This elegant 400 page coffee table book examines the history, materials, and themes that evolved in step with a hundred years of radical sartorial change, from the austere Victorian years to the colorful swinging 60’s.
Punctuated by extraordinary treasures, the glossy pages display cufflinks that were once owned by royalty, inlaid with micro-mosaics, or encrusted with fine gems. From rare cufflinks purchased from the Titanic’s short-lived barbershop to the renowned craftsmanship of the master jeweler Fabergé, this selection of cufflinks is probably unrivaled anywhere in the world.