Of the many anecdotes that the brothers Deakin like to share, the case of the lion cufflinks is an old favourite. The story goes that a young executive bought 12 pairs of the cufflinks, featuring a lion fitted with mechanics that open and close its mouth, for his colleagues. The men then used these as a secret signal when they were with a potential client, to indicate whether or not they wanted in on a deal. Perhaps it is this playfulness that keeps the seventh-generation jewellery company Deakin & Francis, from Birmingham, relevant after more than two centuries.
When Benjamin Woolfield, later joined by Charles Deakin and John Francis, founded the luxury cufflinks company in 1786, little did he know that about 230 years later, current directors James and Henry Deakin would seek design inspiration for a pair of cufflinks from a robotic drone. But, as evidenced by its dancing monkey, hairy Viking and funky skull pairs, here is a company that’s not afraid to take creative risks, despite its storied lineage.
“There are no rules when it comes to cufflinks. Simply choose a pair that expresses who you are and makes you feel good. Cufflinks can be a subtle addition to an outfit, or an extravagant centre piece – they can look just as good with sneakers as they can with a Savile Row suit. They are the perfect finishing touch,” says Henry Deakin. He adds that creativity aside, proportions and perspective often form the greatest design challenges, especially if the cufflinks move. “So in terms of the future, it is essential to us to produce quality pieces,” he says.
The drone cufflinks, from the brand’s Fundamentals collection, are part of that nod to the future. “With the drones, we really wanted to push the boundaries. Exploring new materials, these pieces are crafted from a mix of steel, brass and aluminium, and each futuristic cufflink features six stainless steel spider-like legs. As with most robotic creations, if you gently push the central button, the legs slowly move up and down. But each leg also has its own individual suspension, which guarantees that the drone will always be perfectly placed on the cuff,” says Henry.
Priced at about Dh1,800, the drone cufflinks are by no means the first Deakin & Francis creations to make good on modern technology. The owl pair, for instance, is made of 38 parts and when squeezed, the eyes roll and the wings lift up. Likewise the moving sharks and the jaw-dropping, eye-popping skulls.
In pictures: More cufflinks from Deakin & Francis
The company also offers personalisation services, and can engrave cufflinks with special dates or initials, or create a one-off piece based on your exact specifications. “My wife gave me a stunning pair of cufflinks for my birthday, which are hand-enamelled with pictures of my classic cars and tractor – they are truly special,” says Henry.
Individual expression, then, is key to the cufflink cult. The tie may be on the brink of extinction, while the traditional suit is no longer required office wear. But, thanks to the classic and creative pairs crafted by companies such as Deakin & Francis, cufflinks – arguably, the only style of jewellery that sits firmly in the domain of men – are here to stay.