The story of Pharrell Williams’ career during the early years of the 21st century is a big part of music history. As a producer and writer, he worked on a long list of mega hits with stars ranging from Britney Spears to Jay-Z, Nelly to Gwen Stefani. Simultaneously, Pharrell was making diamond jewelry history with the custom pieces he collaborated on with Jacob Arabo of Jacob & Co, popularly known as “Jacob the Jeweler.”
InIce Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History author Vikki Tobak says Pharrell along with his creative partner Nigo “ushered in the era for colorful stones.” Most of those colorful stones were fancy colored diamonds.
The yellow and pink diamonds that were making waves in the highest echelons of traditional fine jewelry—remember this was the era of the Bennifer Harry Winston pink diamond engagement ring—were being remixed in hip-hop jewelry silhouettes by Pharrell and Jacob.
Now Pharrell is selling lots of his Jacob & Co. diamond jewelry, watches and objects online at Joopiter in an auction of 49 pieces from his collection that includes shoes, clothing, accessories and a Louis Vuitton Murakami trunk.
In addition to the one-of-a-kind creations from Jacob Arabo, there is also pieces showing his custom work. Jacob souped up the gold cases for Pharrell’s Blackberry 8700 and Sony PSP and flooded (aka pavé-set) one of his Casio G-Shocks with yellow cognac and black diamonds and another one with white, cognac, yellow and black diamonds. And Jacob covered the frames of Pharrell’s Oakley Razor Blade glasses with almost 10-carats of diamonds too.
If you are wondering why he is selling his beloved treasures, Pharrell toldVogue, “The Marie Kondo series kind of haunted me.” But the artist is still clearly acquiring major diamond jewelry so I feel like that statement might have been a little in jest.
The auction reminds me of the way Pharrell’s dear friend, the late great Karl Lagerfeld, would spend years acquiring art and antiques from specific eras then sell them all. Whatever the case may be, it is fascinating to see and learn about.
Like everything Pharrell does, there are layers of meaning to the Joopiter auction, titled “I. Pharrell Williams: Son of a Pharaoh.” From the beginning of the history of hip-hop jewelry, artists, particularly Slick Rick, viewed themselves as royalty and their accessories were akin to crown jewels. Pharrell covers this concept with the title of the show Son of a Pharoah. The title also references Pharrell’s father who is named Pharoah.
The color palette at the auction preview was purple. It was another reference to royalty. Purple dye was once so expensive only royalty could afford it. That’s where the phrase “born to the purple comes from.”
Find out more about some of Pharrell’s custom Jacob & Co. jewels being sold in the auction below. The online auction closes October 27 at 12 Eastern time.
I could try to explain how important this Jacob & Co. N.E.R.D pendant is in the history of hip-hop jewelry but it would never be as colorful as the Joopiter description that says:
This is one of the most historic pieces of contemporary jewelry that represents an incomparable artist, at an incomparable time, with incomparable creativity. While the 2005 internet debated whether this was the biggest, most elaborate, blingiest (hey, it was 2005. We said that.) chain in the game, what is not debatable is the cultural impact and paradigm shift that this piece represented in Hip Hop and street culture.
The sheer size, weight, amount of rare gems and especially the array of colors signaled a new era of rapper chains. The immense medallion features caricatures of the whole N.E.R.D. crew rendered in 3D, using an absurd amount of colored diamonds. The 14K three-tone gold chain is also flooded with white, natural light pink, natural fancy yellow and color enhanced blue diamonds. While the use of colored diamonds is now standard operating procedure in Hip Hop and pop culture jewelry, it was not in 2005.
The jewelry nerd in me is reminded of all the amazing bejeweled belt buckles Cartier made during the Art Deco era when I look at this yellow, white, pink, and treated blue diamond and platinum belt buckle Jacob made for Pharrell in 2005. (The “treatment” on the blue diamonds is a process that heightened the color of the natural gems.)
But the description says the creative duo were in fact looking at Gucci logo belts for inspiration to the design that’s a tribute to Pharrell’s hip hop and rock band N.E.R.D. (The acronym stands for No One Ever Really Dies.)
There are over 600 diamonds in the jewel weighing a total of just over 18-carats.
According to the description on Joopiter, Pharrell just wanted some diamond dice and Jacob made them. When the precious objects were tossed in one music video, they did not go unnoticed.
A$AP Ferg mentioned them in his introduction to Ice Cold. “Pharrell had the diamond dice that was in the ‘Drop It Like it’s Hot’ video,” the rapper wrote. “Yeah, it was crazy.”
The companion piece to the dice is the Rubik’s Cube Keychain. Remarkably, the puzzle encrusted with gems by Jacob functions perfectly.
There was a point in hip-hop jewelry history where artist turned from the popular symbols of the street to transforming their record labels and various brand logos into jewels. Pharrell participated in this moment with the massive pendant of the moon man logo for Billionaire Boys Club (BBC), the apparel line he launched with Nigo. It’s worth mentioning Jacob originally introduced Pharrell to Nigo.
The giant jewel replicates Japanese graphic designer SK8THING’s BBC astronaut in nearly 3,000 black and white diamonds. It is suspended from a white diamond and gold Cuban chain measuring 31.75 inches.
In 2004, Pharrell commissioned Jacob to make essentially a little sculpture of the BBC astronaut in yellow gold and 26.97-carats of yellow diamonds.
The jewel is suspended from a 28-inch-long yellow gold chain.
In the history of early hip-hop jewelry, Jesus pieces were one of the main motifs. Pharrell paid tribute in his own way to these early styles with his Jacob Skateboard Pendants. One of the sculptural skate boards has Jesus on the deck and the other has a cross. Both are flooded with yellow and white diamonds as well as pink diamond accents.
The skateboard motifs reflect Pharrell’s love of the sport. He is also known as Skateboard P.
Another logo, Pharrell asked Jacob to immortalize in jewelry was for his band N.E.R.D. In fact, he asked him to do so twice. The first design (seen here) is composed of white, yellow and black diamonds and rubies in yellow gold.
The motif for the group Pharrell formed in 1999 with Shay Haley and Chad Hugo is their acronym and a brain motif. It’s the perfect symbol for all the thought and innovation Pharrell puts into his work and ideas.