For this installment of “The Ensemble” I’m going to focus in on my recently acquired cufflinks from Benson & Clegg, of Piccadilly Arcade London. These are truly little pieces of art being handmade and finished in England by highly skilled artisans. I’m both very excited to own them as well as showcase them here.
As usual I’ll show you the items being used within a specific ensemble before diving into the items themselves with macro shots of the sheer detail and quality of these superlative cufflinks.
You can shop the full range here, at BensonAndClegg.com/Cufflinks.
Being extremely hot and humid in Philadelphia during the summer, I often wear odd linen jackets, color pants, and loafers with no show socks to keep the heat down.
Below you can see one of these ensembles in practice.
Here you can see my entire ensemble, the upper details, and the stunning green paisley design links.
Here I’ve matched the green vitreous enamel with the green of my trousers.
These are small details that can really connect and bring an entire look together. But just be careful not to be too matchy-matchy. It is always good to have a color wheel handy in your dressing room / space to know what colors complement each other for easy accessory matching and coordination.
From top left clockwise:
- Cufflink in french cuff shirt, top / outside view
- Reverse / underside of cufflinks, as these are the chain design they have decoration on both ends of the link, unlike many pairs that have the t-bar or whale tail fixing. This feature definitely adds to the over look and quality
- Showing the chain connector between the french cuff dress shirt folds of fabric
- A “natural” view straight on of how the chain link connectors look between the two end pieces of the cufflinks
One final shot of the cufflinks with my Rolex GMT Master II “Batman” watch. I don’t usually wear this sporty of a watch in the city, but as it was so hot out, this somewhat summer fresh ensemble lined up great, especially with the blue paisley teardrop and ceramic blue bezel of the watch’s 24 hour track.
Sterling Silver & Enamel Chain Cufflinks
Below you can see the five designs I recently purchased. On the shirt are the green paisley ones highlighted above, plus four other stunning and detailed designs.
Below we shall look at what it means to be sterling silver, as well as the process used to make these colorful and detailed designs.
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is the term given to 92.5% pure silver, as indicated by the “925” below seen stamped [known as “hallmarking”] directly into the metal.
Silver is readily available in much finer grade purity at 99.9% or “999”, and is usually for investment purposes such as ingots, and certain coins.
So why are we “giving up” this level of silver purity?
Well, quite simply the fine 999 silver is too soft to be effective for jewelry manufacture and prolonged effective life span. To make the pure silver stronger it’s mixed with other elements, with the majority of that mix being copper. This introduction of copper makes the overall mix much harder, enabling finer designs and greater lifespan of the pieces that have been created.
In our cufflink example above, if the the chain links were made of 999 silver they would not be nearly strong enough for everyday use as they are such a narrow gauge of link. However, with the 925 mix they are more than up to the task of keeping your french cuffs together all day for many years to come!
Understanding / Reading Sterling Silver Hallmarks
Reading the hallmarks, from the left cufflink:
- Top Row:
- “B C” is the maker Benson & Clegg
- Bottom Row:
- “925” indicates that it’s 925 Sterling Silver, showing the high quality and purity of the metal used
- “Anchor Symbol” is the assay mark [officiating body / office for hallmarking in the United Kingdom]. The anchor is the symbol for the Birmingham office, and if it were a lion that would indicate the London assay office
- “I” indicates the year of manufacturer / hallmarking. With these being the letter “I” that indicates that these were made in 2010
To learn more about hallmarks, the date lettering system [back to 1773] and the overall assay process, you can go to the official Birmingham Assay Office site here.
What Is Vitreous / Porcelain Enamel?
They are the same thing. In the United Kingdom it’s referred to as vitreous, while in the United stated it’s referred to as porcelain enamel.
But what exactly is enamel? It is simply a thin layer of glass that has been heated to a very high temperature [around 1,380 to 1,560 °F] and in doing so bonds to a substrate material. For this example the substrate material is the 925 silver, but it can be other metals too such as gold or steel.
The benefits of using enamel are:
- It’s extremely strong and scratch resistant
- Extremely decorative in the colors that can be used
- Adds amazing depth to a piece with the translucent glass showing the relief of the piece, as well as any substrate design [see snowflake design for an excellent example of this below]
- It’s fire retardant, which is not overly important for a cuff link, but in other applications, such as the famous London Underground signs, this plays an important role in safety if there ever was a fire
Above you can see in great detail the silver design under the enamel itself, giving the appearance of great depth on an item that is only a few millimeters deep.
Other famous uses of vitreous enamel within jewelry are Fabergé eggs and high-end Swiss watch makers such as Jaeger-LeCoultre.
It is important to note that one of the main drawbacks of enamel is that it can easily chip and fracture if dropped. However, its decorative and scratch resistant properties far outweigh this “flaw”.
An Ideal Gift Or Treat For Yourself
I’m so happy with this purchase! I own so many pairs of cufflinks, but these really do take it to another level. So much so, that I’m currently clearing out some of my old and quite frankly not up to par designs now that I have these in the rotation.
Pairing both the precious 925 sterling silver, with the depth and detail of the enamel designs gives a real treat on the wrist.
They make an ideal gift for that special someone, or like me you can just treat yourself! [I already have my eye on a few more of the Benson & Clegg cufflink designs.
As always, let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to sharing my next “The Ensemble” post with you.