The allure of hip-hop jewelry...
Some trends leave a mark on history, and the hip-hop movement is one of the more prominent changes in the last few decades. With unforgettable chart-topping singles, award-winning albums, and colossal figures such as MC Hammer, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg, hip-hop changed the way people look at music. The hip-hop lifestyle also dominates current fashion, and jewelry is no exception!
Let’s look at what classifies as hip-hop jewelry, its connection to the trend and cult of celebrity, and where you can find your own hip-hop pieces to showcase your style.
Beginners’ guide: What is hip-hop culture?
Let’s break down the origin and fundamental characteristics of hip-hop:
A brief history of hip-hop
Hip-hop rushed to the music scene in the 1970’s, and it has only grown since then! This new trend in music started in the South Bronx in New York City with DJ Kool Herc leading the charge at his infamous block parties. Taking popular soul and funk records and "breaking" their beats down with two turntables, DJ Kool Herc revolutionized hip-hop and started a wave of other artists perfecting the art.
The hip-hop genre continued to change throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, with big names like Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, and Kurtis Blow giving way to rap-centric artists in later decades. In fact, the first mainstream introduction of rap can be traced back to the Sugarhill Gang’s "Rapper’s Delight"!
High-energy and flashy production also made hip-hop more dimensional in later years. By the 1990’s, hip-hop became a commercialized style that could stand up to any other genre. Artists like Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, P Diddy, and Dr. Dre permeated the scene with lavish displays of jewels and gold and extremely catchy beats.😎
Today, hip-hop music is one of the most consumed genres of music, and its prominence is only growing as new rappers continue to break onto the scene. Next, let’s look at some common elements you can find in hip-hop culture that set it apart.
The five elements of hip-hop culture
There are five main elements to hip-hop that make this music style stand out among the crowd. They are:
- DJing - Also known as “turntabling”, this creates the “breaks” in a song’s beat.
- Rapping - It can also be called “rhyming” or “MCing” and can be incredibly complex or smooth and simple.
- Graffiti Painting - Originating from NYC in 1972, graffiti is the result of a teen tagging the NYC subway system with his nickname and street number: Taki 183.
- Breakdancing - It’s also known as “B-Boying”, which entails not only hip-hop dancing but also a specific code of body language, attitude, and style.
- Knowledge of Self/Consciousness - Hip-hop includes a focus on one’s inner self and praise or critique of that awareness.
What does hip-hop culture represent?
Hip-hop represents a rebirth, a movement of men and women elevating themselves to a higher socioeconomic status. While the love of hip-hop music may transcend economic, political, and racial lines today, this music style definitely has the most significance to the black community.
Deeply based in a time where black Americans faced even more injustice in the forms of racism and segregation than they do today, hip-hop music is the declaration of these individuals. Hip-hop stands as a voice for those who are oppressed, signifying personal liberties and a call to help others rise up from their struggles.
Overall, hip-hop is not a violent, angry call to action, but a strong, definitive shout to all people demanding equality and peace.
Understanding the relationship between hip-hop culture and jewelry
So how does jewelry come into play when discussing hip-hop? As previously mentioned, hip-hop is not only a music genre: it’s a lifestyle and a sense of identity.⚖️
Just as hip-hop culture signifies one’s “rise”, hip-hop jewelry further perpetuates this idea through beautiful, bold pieces. These gorgeous chains, rings, and watches of bright gold and glittering diamonds are symbols, showing one’s elevated status.
This trend of using fine jewelry to symbolize one’s social climb can be traced back to the reign of King Mansa Musa in the 1300’s. The ruler of East Africa, Mansa Musa flaunted his wealth through extravagant jewelry of gold and gemstones.
This trend carried on through the centuries, and it became a pivotal part of hip-hop style. Covering one’s self in finery creates an air of superiority, wealth, and confidence.
Nowadays, you’ll see most rappers decked out in several chains, grills, and other large pieces of jewelry. While today’s rappers may not be as bedazzled as past artists, it’s not uncommon to see popular names wearing gold and diamonds from head to toe.
Jewelry makers love to test their skill by creating intricate, luxe pieces of hip-hop jewelry that dazzle in all settings, from daily outfits to the red carpet. Next, let’s look at some common design features and styles of hip-hop jewelry.
What are the features of hip-hop jewelry?
Hip-hop jewelry is easy to identify, as it has several hallmarks that denote the hip-hop lifestyle. Let’s look at common characteristics of hip-hop pieces:
When it comes to hip-hop, the original jewelry mantra was “bigger is better”. To display one’s rise from poverty to fame, artists chose large, chunky pieces to signify their wealth.
Thick braided chains with massive pendants, huge statement rings, and large-faced watches all made of gold were common in the early years of hip-hop. Today, “bigger” has come to mean more expensive, with artists wearing several smaller chains, similar large pendants, rings that can fit multiple fingers, and huge statement watches that cost as much as a car!🎊
Over time, “bling” has become a major hallmark of hip-hop jewelry. Adding sparkle to pieces provides more allure, and “iced-out” jewelry further emphasizes the flashy appeal of a hip-hop lifestyle. For example, micropavé hip-hop jewelry is popular for jamming as many diamonds into a piece as possible!
“Diamond” hip-hop jewelry can include any kind of gemstone, from rubies and sapphires to cubic zirconia and moissanite, and there’s even lab-made diamond hip-hop jewelry! Artists may choose to wear encrusted chains, pendants, rings, earrings, bracelets, and even watches. “Grills”, or mouthpieces, can also be covered in diamonds to produce a brilliant smile.
Rich Gold Tone
The favorite precious metal of hip-hop culture has changed throughout the years, but many artists remain true to the roots of the genre and stick with yellow gold.
Yellow gold hip-hop jewelry has a deep, luxurious tone that symbolizes the crowns and scepters of royalty. White and rose gold are newer to the scene, but many people choose these metals to provide an eye-catching contrast to their looks.
Another recent trend, platinum is popular for those who prefer a luxe, expensive look. FInally, stainless steel hip-hop jewelry is ideal for anyone on a budget!
Bold, Elaborate Pendants
Hip-hop style wouldn’t be complete without pendants! Pendants are a simple way to include bits of personality into jewelry, using motifs that express strength, luxury, or identity.
Pendants are made of the same metals and gemstones as chains and other pieces, and popular themes include animals, royal and religious imagery, the wearer’s name, and more. Old school hip-hop looks included massive pendants that were heavy, but today’s styles incorporate smaller pendants for easier wear.
Today, artists often have preferred jewelers for all their hip-hop jewelry. As such, personalized pieces and custom products have become pivotal to the lifestyle.
Custom hip-hop jewelry pieces are often encrusted with diamonds and designed with the wearer’s aesthetic in mind. In fact, personalized jewelry is practically the norm among famous artists, who visit their preferred jewelers for individualized customer service and superior craftsmanship.
Dressing like a hip-hop artist: What are my jewelry options?
Each category of hip-hop jewelry comes in several shapes and sizes, and it can be dizzying trying to find what you like. Let’s look at popular hip-hop jewelry sets, examples of some incredible pieces, and how to style them!
Hip-hop chains are an integral part of the lifestyle, and there are several varieties to suit your wardrobe. While thinner styles like cable chains do make an appearance in layered looks, chunkier styles like box, curb, Cuban, tennis, and rope chains are popular for showcasing extra bling.✨
For example, this hip-hop Cuban chain is entirely encrusted in diamonds! Or, you may prefer a diamond tennis chain to add a pendant to your outfit. For a more classic, understated look, try a hip-hop rope chain that adds a glimmer of gold without going overboard.
In addition to layering, you can always mix and match metals for multi-colored glam. Pendants can also be added or removed from thinner chains, so you can get two distinct looks in one!
Much like chains, hip-hop pendants come in many styles and can be as large or small as you desire. Pendants are an excellent way to customize a piece, and they can even be added to pieces you already own to create a new look.
As previously mentioned, hip-hop pendants may contain several themes. Animal pendants are a fun way for wearers to identify with a particular creature based on personality or style. Some prefer imagery that matches their brand, such as skeletons or religious icons. However, because hip-hop jewelry is so customizable, a pendant can be anything you want it to be!🥳
While there are several types of pendants, a fashionable option is the hip-hop name necklace. These flashy pendants incorporate the wearer’s name, nickname, or initials in a stylized font. They’re also usually covered in gemstones, offering a look that’s hard to miss!
Also similar to chains, hip-hop bracelets have both thin and chunky options. Bracelets may be plain metal links or encrusted bling, with popular metal choices including yellow and white gold as well as platinum.
Popular hip-hop bracelets styles include Cuban, figaro, or box, and they all look amazing layered on one’s wrist. Additionally, they can be combined with a watch for texture. Because bracelets dangle and hit surfaces, they are often made with plated metals and diamond alternatives. However, many are still gold with actual diamonds!
For a unique look, try a bracelet with a complex link design. Or, stick with a tried and true style like this Cuban link bracelet as a great base layer for any hip-hop look.
Hip-hop rings are an easy yet affordable way to add bling to your wardrobe! These rings are often statement pieces, sporting thick bands that aren't ideal for stackable looks. However, considering they’re usually coated in diamonds, they stand alone quite well!
Just like pendants, rings can be customized to include any imagery you want. Plus, rings can fit just one finger or an entire hand, offering an even broader range of styles.
Name rings are a bold way to stylize your hip-hop ring if you’d prefer not to wear a pendant. In contrast, this simple eternity band is great for both men’s and women’s hip-hop jewelry looks.
A quality hip-hop watch can bring an ensemble together, and many artists agree! Kanye West, Pharrell, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Jay-Z are just a few who are passionate about their wristwear.⌚
Watches have several customization options, so it’s easy for no two pieces to look the same. The watch’s movement, number of dials, metal, hands, theme, and amount of diamonds are just a few ways expert watchmakers switch up the appeal of their product.
Yellow gold is still a popular option for hip-hop watches, and this simple yellow gold piece is perfect for any look. For a more scintillating style, producers may incorporate bling on just the face of the watch or the entire piece. Recently, leather and rubber bands have even entered the scene, and they can look striking against a bejeweled watch face.
Hip-hop earrings are an excellent final touch or an easy way to add bling to a plain outfit.
For men, earrings may be simple or diamond-encrusted studs that stay close to the ear. However, for women, hip-hop earrings include drops or other stylistic choices for added flair.
Iced-out hoops are a sleek, chic way to bring subdued sparkle to your casual outfit. Or, for the special someone in your life, these grid diamond earrings can be worn for any occasion. Men may also love a classic diamond stud style that can match anything.
Where to buy hip-hop jewelry (Top stores)
Now that you know some options for your first hip-hop jewelry piece, where should you buy it? There are plenty of retailers that can offer you glistening diamonds and gold, but we recommend these quality hip-hop jewelry stores for your next purchase:
With 20 years in the business, it’s hard to argue with the selection and expertise of Maryland-based HipHopBling. Their mission is to “find the best jewelry in the world and sell it at the lowest prices possible without compromising quality service”, and they definitely deliver on their goal! HipHopBling also promises safer shopping, faster shipping, and dedicated customer service that’s available 24/7 to sweeten the deal.
With a name like King Ice, a company better create a top-quality product, right? Right! Based in Los Angeles, King Ice’s hip-hop pieces are like wearable art. The brand even boasts collabs with Snoop Dogg, Death Row Records, Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., and more. You know a product is high-quality when hip-hop titans want in on the business!
The Gold Gods
If you’re looking for more affordable pieces, The Gold Gods carry tons of items on sale that can fit any budget. No-hassle returns, quality materials, and lifetime warranties are just a few of the benefits you can expect when buying from The Gold Gods.
While not exactly a mainstream name in the hip-hop jewelry business, Amazon offers plenty of quality products for very reasonable prices. Amazon is a great place to start for anyone who has never purchased a hip-hop piece and wants to try out the look and weight of such jewelry before committing to a more expensive brand.
Is the hip-hop lifestyle right for you?
Adding hip-hop jewelry to an outfit can be a great way to add pizzazz to your personal style. With deeper meaning and design elements that exude opulence, hip-hop pieces can take an outfit from “basic” to wow!🙀 You can even layer your pieces for a more dramatic effect as well as mix and match styles for a new look every day of the week.
What are your thoughts on both women’s and men’s hip-hop jewelry? How can you make sure you’re buying quality gold and diamonds for a fair price? Take a look at our articles on yellow, white, and rose gold as well as our comprehensive diamond guide to explore some tips and tricks for buying these materials effectively.