Hip hop and bling go together like ham and cheese. It’s impossible to think of one without the other. Cash is one thing, but to be able to wear your money puts you at a level far and above people that can only flash stacks. Money is temporary, bling is a lifestyle.
So where are the biggest hip-hop stars getting bling’d out?
One of the most well-known jewelers is Jacob Arabo, otherwise known as Jacob the Jeweler. While the average person may think that his wares are gaudy, Jay-Z, Nas, and Puff Daddy have worn his unique jewel-encrusted gold, as well as diamond chains, watches, and rings. While Jacob got sent upstate from Manhattan in 2008 for money-laundering, he was released in 2010, and continues to cater to those looking for his exorbitant pieces.
Queens native Greg Yuna switched from being a mortgage broker to a jeweler. He picked up his first celebrity client in Floyd Mayweather, and coined his nickname — Mr. Flawless. He’s since gathered clients in Rick Ross, 50 Cent, and Raekwon. What sets Yuna apart, though, is how thoroughly urban his makes are. When you wear Yuna, you’re wearing a piece that has the soul of the boroughs.
Rafaello & Co, on the other hand, provide jewels for anybody that wants to assert how rich and famous they are. From 11 pound gold Cuban Link chains for Jay-Z, to Saudi royalty, to a $500,000 diamond ring for a DJ Khaled publicity stunt, the Gabriel Jacobs-helmed store exists to make waves in the best way possible.
Down South in Houston, T.V. Johnny (aka Johnny Dang) made his mark in the 2010 Nelly hit “Grillz,” which featured a Johnny-made Grill on Paul Wall. Ever since, he’s been called upon by Lil Jon, David Banner, Rick Ross, and more to provide his signature jewelry. His fame has hit the point where he appears not just on reality shows, but in rap videos themselves.
Ben Baller knew the hip hop game before he became a jeweler. Starting as a DJ for Dr. Dre, and playing a hand in getting Jay-Z signed, Baller is based in Los Angeles. He lives up to his name, with luxury cars, a huge house, and a client list that would give a heart attack to most: Kanye, Drake, Nas, Frank Ocean, the Kardashians, and more. His company IF & Co has been profiled from the LA Times all the way to the Wall Street Journal.
Who would you like to produce your bling? Where are you shopping? Share this article, and let us know in the comments!
We’ve talked a little bit about some of our favorite pieces of jewelry in all of hip hop right now. We’ve got more coming — exclusives on some of your favorite artists’ jewelry. Anything worth studying has a past worth studying, too. So today, we’re taking an at-a-glance look at the history of hip hop jewelry, and what got us all the way from Grandmaster Flash to 50 Cent. In particular, we’re looking at how the game has impacted the world of jewelry and vice versa.
The new sound
Hip hop isn’t a 90’s thing like you may have thought. Oh no, it’s much older than that. You can trace the roots of your favorite genre all the way back to the same decade where Led Zeppelin reigned supreme.
When hip hop exploded onto the scene, it brought with it a sense of fashion that was as unique, catchy, and fresh as the music itself. Not only did hip hop take influence from music genres all over the world to build its new sound, but it did it with attitude. Hip hop quickly became the voice of a generation — of anyone who was marginalized, unheard, and wanted a platform to express themselves in a new and creative way.
The pioneers of the early 70’s and beyond left their mark on the world. We still hear it in the music today, and we still see it in the jewelry our modern artists wear.
By most accounts, hip hop got its start in New York City. More specifically, the Bronx. The area often played host to block parties. These parties would often feature DJs who used to sample beats from disco, funk, R&B, and soul music. These short beats and mashups were already popular in Jamaica, so there’s a line of thinking that has Jamaicans bringing the early hip hop style with them to 1970’s New York. Jamaican music often featured chants and short bursts of lyrical content over samples, which could have been the genesis of rap.
The Jamaican style came with it, too. The Caribbean look quickly found itself right at home in the Big Apple, which saw beaded chains, bracelets, beanies, caps, and the like surge in popularity. In particular, yellow, black, green, and red were popular colors, just like they were and are in Jamaica.
Right here at home, running suits, bell bottoms, and massive “disco” sunglasses were all the rage. If you want to see a personification of the classic Bronx hip hop pioneer look, take a gander at one of the oldest heads in the book: none other than DJ Kool Herc.
Herc’s clothes, music, and jewelry were all the rage.
As the music evolved and influenced the fashion, the rap scene became inseparable from the headlines. The block party scene was now the national look — turntables, samples, loops, beats, and searing vocals were the new “in.”
The youth of the day brought the clothes to the forefront, too. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, alongside other classic artists, started turning their baseball caps sideways or backwards. Men strapped on the largest beaded jewelry and religious paraphernalia they could. Women adopted large, gold hoop earrings. Fedoras, leather, and sunglasses (especially indoors) followed shortly thereafter.
The 80’s saw a number of “new school” artists hit the scene. It’s funny to think of the likes of Run DMC or LL Cool J, or even the Beastie Boys as “new school” today. They’re hip hop and rock and roll legends, having transformed the music scene and exerted influence over thousands of artists to come. Still, in the 80’s, they were brand new. Controversial, even.
These artists brought hip hop to the total mainstream. Magazine covers were accessible to the day’s hot acts, and rap’s close relationship with corporate culture (more on that in a bit) began to develop. The music kept evolving, too, often featuring guitar riffs, funky bass lines, crunching drum interludes and lyrical stylings the likes of which had never been seen. This was truly revolutionary stuff.
It’s around this time rap started its happy marriage to the sports world, too. Team jerseys and attire became regular attire for rappers everywhere. Top brands once confined to sports circles became mainstream apparel. Nike and Adidas found their products enjoying considerable popularity during this time. It’s hard to imagine the Run DMC look without their trademark Adidas sneakers and sweatsuits.
Run DMC had a big impact on sneaker culture. Many consider them to be the pioneers of hip hop shoe culture, which is just as ripe as hip hop jewelry culture. Run DMC left their marks there, too. Their rope braided dookie chains are as iconic an image as any.
Many consider the late 80’s and early 90’s to be the defining years of hip hop. Some call it the golden age of rap. The genre had never been bigger, boasting celebrity status previously enjoyed by a relatively small group of rock megastars. For the first time, and only a short decade after its inception, hip hop music found itself atop all the charts. Hip hop-only television stations popped up. There were hip hop award ceremonies, and household name recognition. Everybody knew what rap was, whether they liked it or not.
The artists of the age are icons now. We all know the names — Public Enemy, MC Hammer, A Tribe Called Quest, Biz Markie, and the Wu Tang Clan — were superstars.
Much like Jamaican culture influenced fashion sense in the early 80’s, African culture took over for the 90’s. Patterns and colors of African origin could be found on everything. The oversized hoop earrings of a few years prior weren’t oversized enough. Excess became the name of the game, with Hammer giving us baggy pants and the likes of Flavor Flav, Ice T, Dre, and Snoop gave us oversized jewelry with emblems and medallions (well, in Flav’s case, it was a kitchen clock). Rings on every finger became a popular look around this time, and still is in some circles. Thankfully, we’ve left the “hammer pants” behind.
As the 90’s roared on, so did the music. For the first time ever, things weren’t all good in the hood. A rivalry between East coast and West coast artists emerged, and saw the uprising of two totally different takes on everything related to rap. The way the music was done, the way the artists acted, dressed, and carried themselves were all split right down the line. Each coast developed its own unique and distinct rap culture.
Thankfully, we don’t live in the middle of a culture war anymore. Lots of people were needlessly gunned down, or otherwise lost to the struggle. It was more serious than a lot of people realize — gangs of the day took the rhetoric of the genre and ran with it, helping to establish a still standing taboo about hip hop music and crime. People really died for the music.
The decade gave us some of the biggest, and arguably most talented, artists in the history of the game. Think of Biggie, Tupac, Jay-Z, Snoop — more superstars, to say the absolute least.
Once again, the music evolved alongside the fashion. Long gone were hammer pants, leathers, and oversized beaded chains. On the West coast, in came bandanas, do rags, preppy plaid shirts (often buttoned once… at the top!), dickies, Timberlands, and Jordans. The East coast favored their hoodies, fedoras, track suits, parkas, and started going very, very heavy on the jewelry.
By now, other genres were not only the ingredients of rap culture, but were benefactors of it. Rock, punk, and everything in between took influence from rap. Bands like Rage Against the Machine started to show off a heavy favoritism toward jewelry, too.
It’s around this time that Eminem, along with other late 90’s greats, brought hip hop into the new millennium.
The new millennium changed everything, and the history of hip hop was forever cemented in stone. The craft still continues to change with every passing day.
The likes of Eminem, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nelly, and others kept rap in the mainstream. These were some of the first artists to truly capitalize on the potential of rap’s marketing power — they teamed up with corporate America and, often, became entrepreneurs themselves.
Dr. Dre became hip hop’s first billionaire after selling the rights to his headphone company to Apple. 50 Cent became Vitamin Water’s posterboy, while Kanye and Jay-Z became multi-hyphenate business owners.
The fashion, while always changing, still prominently features much of the iconic imagery of the past. Chains and medallions with tons of flair are still the “in” item, and may always be.
There’s no telling where the rap game is headed next.
Got your own favorite moments from hip hop history? Let us know in the comments below.
Cuban link chains — maybe you’ve seen them dominating our list of the hottest chains in hip hop. Or maybe you’ve seen athletes and other celebrities wearing them. They’re stylish, valuable, and they make a statement. Megastars like Kevin Hart and Jay-Z chose Cuban link chains to show off their success, which as we all know, is plentiful.
So, you want to get your hands on one, and show the same sort of flash your favorite rapper shows. You set about getting ahold of one, but you ran into a brick wall in your search: you either 1.) couldn’t find these chains in stock anywhere near you, or 2.) found an online seller’s terms to be absolutely unacceptable.
If you’re like everyone else, that was a perfectly normal experience. Cuban link chains, while immensely popular, aren’t always easy to get around your neck. There are a few reasons for this, and we’re going to explore those reasons in detail. Here are the three main ones. Make sure you stick around until the end to hear the good news:
Cost of starting up
Let’s say you want to open up a lemonade stand. That’s a business venture with a low startup cost. All you’d need to start serving the finest lemonade in your neighborhood is some kitchen supplies, some lemonade mix, some cups, and a spot on the side of the road. At most, we’re talking about ten or fifteen bucks.
You can see why even children find it to be an easy venture.
Gold and jewelry distribution falls way, way on the other side of the spectrum. Let’s say you want to get into the business of selling jewelry — even without knowing the business, you probably (correctly) assume that it’ll cost a bit more than a lemonade stand. Even if you open a modest, small time shop, it can still cost a fortune to get off the ground.
You need real estate, and you need a great deal of security for that space. Most importantly (and more costly): you need the merchandise. That means buying some of the most expensive metals on the planet in bulk, and sometimes, the labor to transform it into sellable jewelry, too. Don’t forget shipping, either.
There are tons of other costs. Speaking from personal experience, we can tell you that a whole showroom’s worth of jewelry costs quite a lot of money. How much do you think it would take to stock an entire store — even a small one — with bling? Thousands? Obviously. Tens of thousands? Yep, even for really tiny stores. Hundreds of thousands? Often enough! Millions? Walk through the Diamond District, and you tell us what you think.
The point is this: the jewelry business is hard to get into because of the very high startup costs associated with it.
Now, keeping that in mind, imagine how much more expensive it is than that to get into the business of selling Cuban link chains, or other hip-hop styled pieces? It’s enough to make you cringe. Even reputable, large-scale gold and jewelry distributors shy away from stocking this sort of jewelry.
That’s exactly why it’s tough to find a store near you that stocks these chains. It’s simply too expensive for most vendors to get into, so they don’t. Simple as that.
Some retailers try to get around this by providing Cuban link chains without physically stocking them. When you place an order with these businesses, they turn around and piece together the order using their contacts. There’s problems with this approach, though. Most notably:
Turnaround times are too high
Turnaround times — in other words, the time it takes for retailers to deliver a Cuban link chain after it’s been ordered. We can say with confidence: the industry-standard turnaround times on these items are positively terrible. Many facilities are located overseas. This means high shipping costs, and long travel times.
Both can be a nightmare to deal with.
Think of how many links there may be in the distribution chain. The metal comes from one place, and then has to be shipped somewhere (usually) far away for manufacturing. Then, the jewelry has to make its way into the country to the retailer’s location, which often requires processing from U.S. Customs.
This all takes time. Those businesses who do offer Cuban link chains without physically stocking them are offering them under the condition that you wait — and you wait a long time — for your jewelry. Not to mention that you pay for all the costs associated with bringing that jewelry to life, and to the states.
Most businesses, even those in a position to put together a deal with distributors, refiners, shippers, etc. don’t want the potential hit to their reputations. Taking a month or more to deliver someone their product in what’s usually a same-day-transaction industry could generate some pretty harsh online reviews.
Time isn’t the only thing to consider when you’re stocking Cuban link chains. Consider the merchandise itself. Namely, its dimensions.
Difficulty of accommodating all individuals
When it comes to jewelry, we’ve all got different needs and different tastes. Circling back on the difficulty of stocking our hypothetical jewelry store, consider this: not everybody is the same size. But you have to fill your display cases with jewelry for all sizes. You and I probably don’t wear the same sized bracelet or watch, and retailers have to account for that.
When it comes to hip-hop jewelry, or any high-cost jewelry for that matter, that can quickly become the most expensive part of the entire process of stocking them. When a chain costs $50,000, and you need to stock three of them just to accommodate everyone, costs could get pretty unforgiving, and fast. It’s all because of body styles and personal preferences — there’s rarely a one-sized-fits-all approach when it comes to expensive jewelry. “Custom” is always popular. Just take a look at this Cuban link chain:
A store’s owner would have to be crazy to assume this size would be popular. Still, without one hanging around in the display case, some company would have lost this young man’s business to someone else.
As you can see, stocking hip-hop chains is not something that’s easy to do. They’re often very large, and people don’t buy big, flashy, expensive jewelry just to hide them under their wardrobe. These pieces are meant to be showed off. That means big, flashy chains that are downright expensive to stock. This keeps businesses out of the game.
There are other difficulties to keep in mind. Do you stock just gold, or silver? Both? Prepare to pay! How about stocking both hollow, and solid-body chains? We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but costs can spiral out of control.
But hang on a sec!
That all sounds like very bad news, indeed. But, there’s good news:
We’ve overcome all of these hurdles, and are one of the only companies in the industry that stands ready to hook you up with the Cuban link chain that’s perfect for you. We’ll get it done faster than anyone else, and our inventory is one of the most impressive collections in the world.
Get in touch with us today to get started.
Have any questions, comments, or a thirst for more info on Cuban link chains? We want to see your feedback below!
The hottest chains in the rap game are some of the flashiest, most expensive pieces anywhere. Nobody likes to show off their earnings like a rapper who’s on top of the game, and their expensive and lavish tastes have given us some of the sickest chains the world has ever seen.
They range from royal to ridiculous, and come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got to be making serious money to get your hands on one of these chains, though — that’s why you only see the game’s kingpins wearing them.
Among the most expensive, attention-grabbing chains are Miami and Cuban-styled link chains. They’re some of the most recognizable, classy, and heaviest pieces available anywhere, and they’ve been a staple of the rap game ever since Run DMC made rope-braided dookie chains popular decades ago.
We’re going to release a series soon detailing up to 50, maybe even 100, of hip hop’s hottest jewelry. To hold you over while we work with the industry’s biggest acts to get the exclusive rundown on their jewelry, here are some of the rap game’s five hottest Miami and Cuban link chains, along with their proud owners.
5. Lil Jon’
What!? What!? Yeayuh! Lil’ Jon probably got tired of reminding people that crunk ain’t dead, so he had a chain made to do the talking for him. While the medallion is impressive, the heavy braided rope chain made from solid gold is just as fly. On its own, it probably comes in at around 3 kilos.
These chains first became popular in the 80’s, and Lil’ Jon is doing his part to respect the old heads by re-popularizing some of the decade’s iconic looks.
4. Fat Joe (and Nelly as a bonus!)
Two for the price of one! This spot on the board is a near-tie between Fat Joe and Nelly. Both sport huge yellow gold Cuban link chains. Joe got his pieced iced while Nelly opted for a solid gold chain. Both look ridiculously good, and demonstrate how simplicity and class can trump all the silly bells and whistles found on too many chains today.
Nelly and Fat Joe are two legends of the game who have been around long enough to know what’s really in style, and who’s just a poser.
3. 50 Cent
50 Cent is a polarizing rapper. That means people either love him or they hate him, but no matter how much respect you have (or don’t have) for 50, you can’t deny he’s got one of the hottest chains in the entire business.
This is the same person who dropped Get Rich or Die Tryin’, a classic that paid out untold millions to the rapper. He’s since had his hands in other ventures, and enjoys playing the entrepreneur game, but 50’s rap pedigree is undeniable.
He rocks an iced-out, fat Cuban link chain. Actually, scratch that — he wears like four!
2. Young Jeezy
Young Jeezy may not have made a lot of noise in 2017, but he’s made a killing in the rap business. That much is obvious when you look at his jewelry, which almost tops this list thanks to how on-point it is.
As you can see, Jeezy likes to mix it up and doesn’t stick with any one chain. He’s normally got at least three draped around his neck. Still, he’s got a clear favorite when it comes to style, and he seems to enjoy the Miami look — thick, heavy Cuban link pieces. Not bad at all! These pieces look to be about two or three kilos a piece.
Jay-Z is the undisputed king of the rap game — and it’s been that way for two decades. Jay’s life and career represent the ultimate rags to riches story. His humble beginnings involved peddling drugs and mixtapes in Brooklyn, rapping for anyone who would listen.
Jay went on to become an investor, entrepreneur, owner of sport teams, clubs, record labels, and clothing lines. He married Beyonce Knowles and has the competition beat when it comes to staying on top of the game.
It’s only fitting his chain pull rank, too. Estimated to be worth at least $25,000, Jay’s chain shows class — making a statement without any gaudy accents or silly logos. It’s a pure gold Cuban link piece that’s almost as recognizable as the iconic artist himself.
Jay’s chain is one of the few that doesn’t go overboard, and hints at how much money the artist is making while maintaining a sense of class.
There are bigger chains, and there are more expensive chains out there. But it’s hard to argue with Jay’s tastes. He sets trends and revolutionizes the game every time he gets involved with a project, whether it’s musical or business-related. If he rocks a straight Cuban link chain, that’s the number one look. Simple as that.
If you’re thinking this incredible chain, rumored to be 7 kilos or more, is just costume jewelry meant for the stage, peep Jay rocking the chain on a private jet:
Whether you like em’ flashy and cartoonish like Rick Ross, or simple and powerful like Jay, you’ve gotta admit they make a statement.
BONUS: Daddy Yankee
Daddy Yankee technically has an even crazier, more expensive chain than Jay’s — it’s a 10 kilo Cuban link chain, but it’s the exact same style Jay made popular a few years before. This particular piece looks like it probably weighs as much as a bowling ball!
Who’s got a hotter chain than the ones shown above? Drop us a line so we can check it out!
Why Does My Silver Always Tarnish? It Doesn’t Have To.
Obviously, we focus on gold a lot here. But silver is almost as popular as gold, and for many of the same reasons any of the precious metals are valuable. It’s rarer, denser, and more unique than most metals, making it ideal for use in currency and trade. Silver has a history that’s just as diverse as any precious metal’s, and it plays a giant role in world economies.
It’s also popular for jewelry. There are a few things to know about silver, though. It’s unique, and a buyer’s approach to using and maintaining their silver must be, too.
Silver has a different market value than gold does. When gold is at $1250, silver’s at $15-$20. Despite the difference in cost, gold and silver have roughly the same labor costs. It’s great as a bullion investment — if you’re buying the metal alone. If you’re buying silver jewelry, there’s less of a return on your investment. A lot of that has to do with the labor costs we mentioned, but it also has a lot to do with the way silver tarnishes over time.
As far as producing jewelry goes, for every ten thousand dollars you spend, you’ll have at least seven thousand dollars worth of gold jewelry. If you spent two grand on silver, you’ll squeeze about $300 worth of actual silver out of the deal. It makes sense when you think about it. Pretend a jeweler charges a flat rate of $500 to make a piece of jewelry. If you send them both gold and silver for minting, more of that silver will be needed to cover the $500 cost, leaving less leftover for production. You’d only need a small amount of gold to pay for $500 of labor, leaving room for more product.
Silver’s real strength is its aesthetic appeal and its rarity, which makes great for currency, decorations, jewelry, and the like. As an alternative to spending premiums to own genuine gold, silver works just fine. We’ve all seen some nice watches and decorations that work well in silver, perhaps better than in gold.
Keeping it in decent condition takes a bit of work. It tarnishes very easily and requires a great deal of care. Silver looks like white gold when newly-minted, but it’s easy to lose that shine.
So, for all of our current and future silver lovers, here’s some handy information that’ll help you keep your silver looking beautiful — on your wrist, neck, or portfolio.
1. Soap, water, saltwater, and cleaning chemicals (think of chlorine, bleach, detergents, anything you’d wash your skin or clothes with) are great for you, but they’re terrible for silver and can eat away the shiny appearance of your silver in no time at all.
2. Fine cotton or similar materials are all you should bring into contact with your silver. Cleaning it as-needed is essential to maintaining its quality. Use something to wipe it down that won’t scratch it.
3. Butter paper — use it! It’s a little like tracing paper, which is also fine to use. Both are acceptable materials to wrap your silver in to preserve it and keep it protected from airborne contaminants and other debris.
4. This one’s not so much a maintenance tip as a general handling tip, but don’t wear your silver if you’re working with your hands, or will be handling pollutants or excess amounts of dirt of any kind. Keep in mind, your silver (or any jewelry, really) is never more at risk and exposed than when you’re wearing it. Take special care to make sure you’re only wearing it in clean environments.
5. One of the best materials for preserving, handling, and (as an added bonus) displaying jewelry is velvet. It’s soft, comes in a wide variety of colors, and works for both soft and hard storage mediums. We especially recommend a velvet-cased vehicle for your silver if you’re moving it to and fro. Another trick you can use with your silver is to slip some silica gel in the container. It’s great for absorbing moisture, and it’ll keep your metal dry.
6. Sulphur is bad for your jewelry, and it accelerates tarnishing. But we’re not all too accustomed to keeping track of what items have or produce sulphur, so here’s a rule of thumb lots of folks have broken: no rubber bands. It may seem obscure, but consider the fact that people do wear rubber bands, use them to wrap jewelry cases, and use them to secure jewelry. This is a terrible idea! When they start to stretch and age, rubber bands release sulphur. This will seep into your silver and ruin its appearance.
Seems crazy, but it’s true. You may be guilty of this one yourself. There are a few other items you should avoid, but probably bring into contact with your jewelry all the time. Newspapers, cardboard, leather, and silk are a few.
7. With summer on the horizon, we’re going to be uncovering our pools pretty soon. If you do so, leave the jewelry inside. This is another rule people break by the millions. No swimming pools, hot tubs, or any chemicals you’d handle while maintaining a pool. In each case, water and other undesired liquids will eat away at the jewelry, rendering it dull and less valuable.
8. Adding to the list of activities we’ve all probably taken part in to diminish the value of our silver without knowing it — toothpaste! If you wear your jewelry when you brush your teeth, you’re doing yourself, and the jewelry, a disservice. Toothpaste (and baking soda, if you use that) is far too corrosive to do silver any favors, and it’ll scratch or tarnish any metal it comes into contact with. It’s very corrosive, in fact. Consider how strong it has to be to break down all the materials in our mouths after a day of eating, drinking, and breathing in dust.
9. Little-known fact about tissue paper: it contains wood pulp and small, abrasive particles that help the tissues perform better while in use. Most people don’t know this, and use it to clean their jewelry or other precious metals with. That’s something we explicitly avoid, and recommend you should, too, because it’s like taking some very mild sandpaper to your stock. No good!
10. You have a good idea of what situations to avoid already, and can probably imagine some other tasks you should avoid while wearing jewelry. Still, in the interest of being inclusive, here are a few more: gardening, house chores, sports, cleaning, repairs, laundry, and cooking.
Silver has a spot in all of our hearts for its appearance, rarity, value, and uniqueness. Silver goes right along with gold for many, in light of their vastly different market values. As an investment, silver is great, so long as you’re sticking to bullion and bulk purchases. As a medium for jewelry, it’s a very close second or third to gold and, say, platinum.
Kept in pristine condition, silver looks a lot like white gold. Follow our hints above, and you’ll have no issues retaining that shine.
Have your own tips or experience in keeping your silver tarnish-free? We want to hear from you!