What is a cuff link? 

Cigar Cuff LinksA cuff link is a fastener that is used to fasten or link the two portions of a cuff of a jacket or dress shirt. They can have very simple designs or be very complicated, depending on how much the cuff links cost, and like most things, cuff links go back in time. 
Believe it or not, cuff links actually go far back in history. The use of cuff links can be found in ancient hieroglyphics in King Tut's tomb. These cuff links are not like the cuff links of today. The cuff links that people wear today were first worn in the late 1700's.

Cuff LinksNo one is sure when the cuff links of today first arrived. They are originally mentioned in writing pieces in 1788, but they had actually had been worn sometime before that. It seems that suddenly people started cutting cuff-fastening slits into clothing. Tape ties or ribbons had been used in the past to fasten cuffs, but these ribbons or ties were replaced with luxurious items, made of gold or silver and set with gemstones. Cuff links were a hand made luxury item reserved for the aristocratic classes. 
The invention of steam-driven stamping machines, electro-metallurgy and the Tour a' Guilloche machine in the 1700's and 1800's opened up cuff links to a wider audience. By the 1840s, the French cuff or double-cuff shirt became popular and has never really gone out of fashion. The middles classes were able to afford cuff links that were replicas of the silver or enamel cuff links that were worn by the rich. The replicas would usually have fake diamonds or be made of gold-coloured alloys with foil.

Cuff LinksDuring 1880s in America, a George Krementz invented a device that could mass produce one-piece cuff links. The device was based on an American Civil War shell-making machine and this enabled US businesses to use cuff links. for advertising purposes or as gift incentives for clients.

By the 1920s, the most popular style was the enamel cuff link. After the Communist revolution in Russia, the luxury artisans of Faberge fled to Europe and America, and it was these artisans who taught their enamelling skills to others, and their designs were based on the art movements of the day. The low-cost production of plastics in the 1930s led to the decline of enamel cuff links which have now become collectors' items, especially the hand-made ones.

Cuff Links 5The peak of cuff link. popularity was probably in the mid-1960s. Swank, Inc., a popular manufacturer at the time, was making 12 million cuff links. a year, whilst oday, they make about 200,000 a year, but cuff links. are making a comeback and sales have been increasing over the last ten years. The French cuff shirt remains the most formal and prestigious of all shirts. 

Cuff links have often reflected the significant art movement of the day. To see proof of this, one can visit the Cuff link Museum in Conway, New Hampshire, USA. This museum has over 700,000 pairs of cuff links. Today, there are numerous styles of cuff links. ranging from novelty cuff links., contemporary cuff links. and humorous cuff links. Some top designers of cuff links. are Sonia Spencer, Murray Ward, Babette Wasserman and Simon Carter.
Whatever the style of the cuff links., they have a very simple design. Cuff links consist of a post, a short cylindrical portion or a chain connecting two disc-shaped parts, one of these is sized to fit through the button-hole of the cuff. The other disc-shaped part, positioned on the most on the most visible side, is wider. This part is one that is usually monogrammed or engraved. Cuff link designs do vary widely. And there is almost an unlimited variety of designs and construction details that could appear on a cuff links. The hidden side of a cuff link. could have a portion that swivels on the central post, aligning with the post while the link is threaded through a button-hole, and swivelling into a position at right angles to the post when worn.

Cuff Links 6The most expensive pair of cuff links ever sold was a pair that was given to King Edward VIII by his wife Wallis Simpson. These cuff links which were made of platinum, had diamonds set into them and were sold at an auction for $440,000. 

In Europe, there is an alternative to cuff links. called the silk knot or  monkey's fists. They are cheaper than cuff links., but they are still considered to be appropriate for formal occasions. French cuff shirts could be accompanied with a set of colour co-ordinated silk knots instead of double-button cuff links. 

When you are choosing cuff links as a gift, the most important thing to consider being   the cuff links reflects the personality of the wearer. One of the best things about wearing a pair of cuff links is that they are a tiny reflection of a person's style and taste. You should also give some thought to the person's wardrobe, their tastes,  favourite colour, do they like to wear gold, do they prefer metals or  plastics do they like to be flashy, are they looking more for a quiet understatement? You should think about the person's style of dress, their personality and how they like others to see them. Ideally, you will be able to find a pair that can fit all three areas. You should not worry too much. It is usually the thought that counts anyway.