Types of Vintage Cufflinks

Guide to Vintage & Antique Cufflinks

Cufflinks are a popular form of masculine jewelry, having both a decorative and practical function. Cufflinks have been a part of men's fashion for hundreds of years. Even though the first cufflinks appeared the 1600's, they did not become a common accessory until the end of the 18th century. Their expansion is closely linked to the development of men's shirts, and although fashion and manufacturing methods have changed over time, the underlying men's jewelry form continues to exist.

Choosing Vintage Cufflinks

There are many options when looking for vintage or antique cufflinks and it helps to know how your cufflinks will look, feel, and function. When making your selection, a big part of this decision is the cufflink's backing. The backing is an essential part of what makes your cufflinks secure. The types of cufflink backings we will explain are:
  • Simple
  • Fixed, Button, and Stud
  • Double-Faced and Double-Sided
  • Chain-Linked
  • Bullet and Torpedo
  • Swivel and Whale Tail
We will also discuss what to look for when collecting vintage and antique cufflinks, as well as the care your should take once you have these cufflinks in your possession.

Types of Vintage Cufflinks: Simple

The first type of cufflink that comes to mind is the "simple" type. "Simple" cufflinks can be defined as easily made using simple forms. A simple form can then be dressed up using a variety of techniques, such as mill-pressing (adding texture) and patination (adding color).
Tiffany & Co. Gold Sapphire Cufflinks

Types of Vintage Cufflinks: Fixed/Button/Stud

Another type of cufflink is the "fixed back", which has no hinge mechanism. Instead, they have a large head, a straight post, and a smaller, interior head or backing. The smaller head is tilted, worked through the button hole, and then straightened out to lock it in place. Vintage cufflinks in this style can include the designer's logo or another design on the front. Once in place, they are quite secure, and the lack of moving parts makes them very durable. A lot of people like this rigid style for the stability.

Types of Vintage Cufflinks: Double-Faced/Sided

Double-faced, or double-sided, cufflinks consist of two small discs (or other shape) connected by either a bar or short chain. Cufflinks which are double-faced allow for a greater variety and interest than their traditional single-faced counterpart, as the two faces need not have the same detail or form. One of the faces must, however, be able to pass through a buttonhole. 
tiffany-co-gold-sapphire-cufflinks-studs

Types of Vintage Cufflinks: Chain-Linked

Chain-linked cufflinks have great physical flexibility, although they can be difficult to handle as a result. The chain must be strong enough to withstand the stress of any accidental wrenching. Vintage Yellow Gold Agate Cufflinks Vintage Yellow Gold Agate Cufflinks 
Cufflinks with a chain link are common in Europe, and give designers the ability to create a double sided or reversible design like these beautiful designs by Denmark designer Georg Jensen . This classic style is quite formal and a normal sight at weddings and black tie affairs. Some sets even include a side which can be engraved for that personal touch.

Types of Vintage Cufflinks: Bullet/Torpedo

A common style of of backing for vintage cufflinks is the "bullet" backing, sometimes called "torpedo". The hinged bar on the bullet-backed cufflinks toggles in order to secure the cufflinks on the cuff. Bullet-backed cufflinks are a favorite as it allows the owner to don their cufflinks quickly and easily, without a fuss.

Types of cufflinks: Swivel/Whale Tail

Among vintage cufflinks, the swivel backing, also known as the whale tail, is a common choice. The swivel backing is similar to the "bullet" backing. This backing allows designers to include branding without taking away from the unique designs on the front. Another reason for that swivel-backed cufflinks are popular is that it allows for customization of the cufflinks with an initial or a special date, making them a popular choice for personalized gifts.
cartier-gold-enamel-flag-cufflinks
Fittings on swivel-backed cufflinks are generally made in two separate parts, allowing them to be detached for repairs. For those fittings that include sprung elements, detachment may be necessary, as the parts can become damaged by soldering.

Collecting Vintage Cufflinks

People who buy antique cufflinks and designer vintage cufflinks the most are collectors who acquire them for good reasons. Antique and vintage cufflinks are particularly collectible since modern creations cannot reach the beautiful craftsmanship of the past. Consequently, if you find some vintage or antique cufflinks that you like don't hesitate to buy them! In order to start collecting antique and vintage cufflinks it's important to know what criteria to look for when presented with these elegant objects. The item's condition is paramount - all collectors should keep their cufflinks in mint condition. However, the condition cannot be assessed with the naked eye alone, so inspection under a loupe or magnifying glass is imperative. That said, only if a design is very old or very rare, could "mint condition" be a factor that could be waived in the item's value evaluation.

Taking Care of Vintage Cufflinks

First of all, collectibles such as cufflinks should be stored safely in a dust bag away from light and humidity to avoid deterioration and damage.  Vintage cufflinks can be subject to wear, and occasionally to unwelcome pressure if they are leaned upon. Solid bars will be vulnerable under pressure if the bar is not sufficiently strong, of if either of the soldered joints is weak. Chains and two-part link fittings tend to be easier to repair if they involve enameling or if they are stone-set, as their parts can be more readily broken down thus avoiding damage from any necessary soldering. Swivel fittings are technically difficult to make, but commercial versions can be easily purchase, and are a relatively good value, even when the cost of manufacture is taken into consideration. Three-part swivel fittings, where the body attaches to the form with a joint part, are preferable to two-part fittings with rigid arms, as arms can be more easily broken.

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Your Cufflinks Adventure Continues

We hope that this guide has informed you about the world of vintage and antique cufflinks. For more inspiration, ideas, and possibly your next cufflinks, visit our ever-growing collection at DFS Antique Jewelry!