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New York auction houses must have heard that some Wall Street brokerages are paying bonuses early this year: December sales are packed with pricey cuff links.

The fashion accessory dates back nearly 250 years, to the reign of Louis XIV. The luxury-loving monarch favored glass buttons linking his cuffs rather than the strings that were de rigueur in his day. The fashion trickled down from the aristocracy to tradespeople over the decades. And, until the fashion upheaval of a generation ago (when the look went from Mad Men to mod), cuff links were quite common. They can be worn two ways: either “kissing,” with the ends of the sleeves of a dress shirt pinched together, or “barrel-style,” with one end overlapping the other.

Phillips de Pury has several sets in its auction of Dec. 10. A pair of moonstone, crystal, onyx and diamond cuff links in the shape of cars is on the block with an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. Another pair, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000, consists of simple domes encrusted with sapphires and diamonds. There are also a handful of cuff link sets by Italian designer Michael Kanners; he specializes in whimsical pieces such as Champagne corks, boxer dogs and pasta bow ties.

Sotheby’s on Dec. 9 has both cuff links and examples of the far more formal dress sets (these consist of matching cuff links, shirt studs and, sometimes, buttons or button covers) for sale. There are also several pairs from the early 20th century selling in London from the workshop of Fabergé in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Coins and initials are the most popular cuff link designs, but the fleur-de-lis, cars, horses and dogs are also popular.

How will they do? There’s been an interesting trend going on in jewelry sales. In 2009, fewer high-end consumers (defined as those with an average annual income of $220,200 or more) bought luxury goods than in earlier years, according to research firm Unity Marketing’s 2010 Personal Luxury Report. But those that did splurge spent twice as much money on men’s jewelry as they did the previous year.

So much for casual Friday.


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