HIP HOP’S CROWN JEWELS

Images by Tony Krash (left) and AMNH

Displaying some of hip hop’s most iconic treasures, the new exhibition ‘Ice Cold’ in the American Museum of Natural History traces the evolution of jewelry in hip hop over the past five decades: Celebrating the artistry of hip hop jewelry, while highlighting its cultural impact, the exhibit shows pieces from A$AP Rocky to Biz Markie, Erykah Badu, Nas and many more.

Housing 68 iced-out creations that include Slick Rick’s gem-encrusted crown, Biggie’s legendary gold Jesus piece, Jay-Z’s diamond-studded Roc-A-Fella medallion, Nicki Minaj’s sparkling ‘Barbie’ pendant, and more pieces, Ice Cold takes visitors on a time travel from the oversized gold chains embraced by rap pioneers in the 1980s through the 1990s, when emcees-turned-business moguls started to rock diamonds and platinum, all the way to today’s opalescent jewelry.

Curated by jeweler Alex Moss, Slick Rick and Vikki Tobak, author of the eponymous Ice Cold book, the exhibition illustrates how ‘bling’ in hip hop holds significance beyond mere aesthetics: Ice Cold’s detailed descriptions and anecdotes also tell the story of how jewelry serves as a powerful symbol of resilience, identity and self-expression.

“Jewelry was woven into the fabric of hip-hop culture from the start. And there are certainly things – transcending your circumstances, something to signal when you get success, wearing that success on your body – it becomes an assertion of who you are. (…) Humans have been doing that throughout time. But when you add the history of hip-hop to the mix, it’s a whole different story. Hip-hop in fashion, and jewelry too, is rooted in customization and remixing – just like the music.”

Guest curator Vikki Tobak to Vogue

‘Ice Cold: An Exploration of Hip-Hop Jewelry’ is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York until January 5, 2025.

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