Hip hop jewelry consists of flashy and extravagant accoutrements that were originally designed to serve as status symbols. While the wearer may be referred to as “iced out,” it is also known as “bling bling,” “bling.” Hip hop jewelry is classified by its use of diamonds and gold. Different styles of hip hop accessories have shifted over time, from gold to white gold and platinum, but the purpose remains the same—to show off and be seen.
Hip hop jewelry is a status symbol of wealth and prestige. Many hip hop artists adorn themselves in designer fashion brands and glitzy jewelry to symbolize and celebrate their journey to success.
Specific hip hop jewelry made its first appearance in the early to mid-80s, when the first hip hop groups and MCs burst onto the scene. Pioneering rap icon Kurtis Blow started the trend of wearing several necklaces at the same time. Many of his necklaces contained large, oversized medallions.
Another hip hop legend, the group Run DMC, introduced the style of wearing chunky gold chain necklaces over track suits. Many of these gold chains were the thickness of actual rope.
Even though he wasn’t involved with the rap scene, Mr. T also popularized the look of wearing many gaudy gold necklaces at the same time. Flava Flav, from Public Enemy, took the style further by wearing a large clock around his neck, accented by gold necklaces.
During the early age of hip hop, gold was the standard color and material used for jewelry. This changed in the 90s with the advent of the luxurious styling of Jay-Z and P. Diddy, then known as Puff Daddy. These artists brought in a new age of designer clothing and platinum jewelry where white gold, silver, and diamonds became the rage. Pretty soon hip hop jewelry became encrusted in diamonds—the more, the better. Grills, or “grillz,” are a way to cover teeth with diamonds. Some grills even feature messages or names on them and can be customized.
Hip hop jewelry then took on a new name. The term “bling bling” was coined in the late 90s to describe the flashy, over-the-top fashion of hip hop jewelry. The Cash Money Millionaires were credited with coining the phrase.
The term “bling” has since come into the mainstream, and so has its style. There now exists a wide selection of affordable “bling” decked out in cubic zirconium and faux gold. Hip hop jewelry consists of belt buckles, bracelets, necklaces, chains, rings, dog chains, earrings, and watches.