Bling bling is a hip hop expression that refers to conspicuously gaudy or ostentatious jewelry. The word “bling” is meant to evoke the brilliant flash of fine diamonds and precious metals. First coined by rap artists sometime in the late 1990s, "bling bling" became a popular way to describe flashy watches, rings, necklaces, and even tooth caps. Today, the expression is considered somewhat passé among those with authentic hip hop style, although ostentatious jewelry is still in fashion.
Jewelry described as bling bling is often completely over-the-top, befitting someone who has money to burn. Rings, necklaces and watches are encrusted with precious stones that dazzle and shine, blatantly advertising the wealth of the wearer. In the extravagant lifestyle of hip hop rap artists, wearing a bling watch, bling ring or bling necklace has become de rigueur. Wearing all three at once is even more common.
There is some debate among rappers as to the origin of the expression bling bling. Lil Wayne of Cash Money Millionaires is believed to have made the first recorded reference to the single word “bling.” He used it in a rap song called "Millionaire Dream" on the 1998 album How Ya Luv That by Big Tymers. Lil Wayne later boasted of originating the word in another rap song, Hollywood Divorce by OutKast.
Some rappers wear bling bling with a great deal of style, such as rap artist Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and hip hop singer Mary J. Blige. Other people prefer an in-your-face approach, with huge, looping chains of gold bling necklaces and rings on every finger. Rapper Flava Flav was one of the first to wear bling on his teeth, a popular item known in the hip hop world as a grill. Bling bling isn’t always jewelry, however; it can apply to a bejeweled walking cane, a chalise or cup, the faceplate on a cell phone, or any overly-embellished personal item.
Baby bling is one of the offshoots of the bling jewelry industry. Bling bling for babies is considered by many to be the ultimate show of wealth. Mothers who indulge in hip hop fashion can find jewel-encrusted baby rattles and mink baby blankets, with prices in the stratosphere. One website advertises a baby bottle swathed in Swarovski crystals and personalized with baby’s name for $225 US Dollars. For the truly discriminating parent, there are jewelers who make baby bling with real diamonds and precious metals, such as gold, silver and platinum, costing many thousands of dollars.