Ice Cold: Hip-Hop’s Diamond Clad Legacy Takes Center Stage at AMNH

Set your sights on the mind-blowing diamond jewels from Drake, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, and the Notorious B.I.G at the American Museum of Natural History’s new exhibition, Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry.

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Nicki Minaj’s iconic Barbie pendant—which boasts 54.47 carats of diamonds on 18-karat gold and bright Barbie-pink enamel—was made by Ashna Mehta in 2022 and is the most recent commissioned by Minaj, whose first Barbie pendant dates to 2009.

Last night, the American Museum of Natural History was transformed into a vibrant homage to hip-hop culture with the Ice Cold opening party, celebrating the launch of Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry. The new and architecturally stunning Gilder Center and the renowned Gem Hall hosted the event. The atmosphere was electric as Hip-hop icons, including FERG and Slick Rick, as well as designers of some of the famed pieces, including Ashna Mehta, Jules Kim, and Alex Moss mingled with guests. The room buzzed with excitement as DJ Clark Kent spun tracks that set the perfect backdrop for a night filled with sparkling jewels and hip-hop flair.

“Jewelry is a cornerstone of hip-hop culture, and you can see the evolution of jewelry alongside the rise of hip-hop itself,” said Ice Cold guest curator Vikki Tobak. “From being a culture formed in communities and neighborhoods, and then stepping into its power and starting to impact global pop culture, hip-hop and its jewelry tell a bigger story. This exhibition explores that world of hip-hop’s culture of adornment and celebrates the pioneering artists and jewelers who made it all come together.”

Attendees dressed to impress in their best hip-hop-inspired looks, many decked out in their own dazzling natural diamonds. The exhibit is a treasure trove featuring a curated selection of over 80 pieces of hip-hop jewelry. From Slick Rick’s iconic gem-encrusted crown to the Notorious B.I.G.’s legendary gold ‘Jesus piece,’ The exhibit showcases the diversity and creativity of hip-hop jewelry. The Roc-A-Fella diamond medallion for Jay-Z’s record label, T-Pain’s Big Ass Chain, Nicki Minaj’s diamond set ‘Barbie’ pendant, Beyonce’s diamond nails, multiple diamond grills, and pieces from Erykah Badu, A$AP Rocky, Bad Bunny, Joey Bada$$, Tyler, the Creator, and more were all on display, representing a cross-section of hip-hop’s most iconic stars. In a conversation with FERG at the party, he told me he misses his jewels and sometimes looks for them before remembering ‘they’re in a museum!”

Designed by Alex Moss in 2021, the dazzling Bellhop necklace—inspired by Tyler, the Creator’s bellhop persona—features an operable briefcase and incorporates 186 carats in diamonds and 60 carats in sapphire as well as more than 23,000 hand-set stones.

Designed by Slick Rick, who embraces grandeur and royalty in his style, this costume jewelry piece is by Tanya Jones of Lucki Crowns. Presented with the crown is a custom-made eyepatch designed for Slick Rick by Jacob & Co in 2012, with refinements by Avianne & Co in 2023, featuring platinum and diamonds.

The Notorious B.I.G. commissioned this Jesus pendant in the mid-1990s from Tito Caicedo of Manny’s New York, and Tito made three copies for Biggie, all cast from the same mold as this gold artist’s proof.

This chain from Roc-A-Fella Records, the label founded by Jay-Z, Damon “Dame” Dash, and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, features a diamond-encrusted vinyl record with a bottle of champagne and a cursive “R,” and is among the most coveted of label chains.

This pendant—designed by Alex Moss in 2023 to celebrate Drake’s hometown of Toronto—boasts multicolored diamonds and rubies on 18-karat gold and features the mascots for the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Blue Jays wrapped around Toronto’s CN Tower.

Designed by Pristine Jewelers in 2023, the Terror Squad necklace—made of 14-karat white gold encrusted with diamonds—is Fat Joe’s ode to the Bronx-based rap collective of the same name, which he founded in 1998.

Roxanne Shanté, a member of the influential hip-hop collective Juice Crew as a teen in the 1980s, is the only female rapper to have been given a Juice Crew ring, which boasts a diamond-encrusted “R”.

Featuring white and rose gold, this custom diamond-encrusted Queensbridge pendant was commissioned from Pristine Jewelers by Nas in 2018 to commemorate Queensbridge Houses in Queens, New York, where he grew up.

This playful Lego pendant, designed for A$AP Rocky by Alex Moss X Pavē in 2022, is made of 14-karat gold with multicolored diamonds, sapphire, ruby, and enamel.

Curated by Vikki Tobak, journalist and author of Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History, alongside guest co-curators Kevin “Coach K” Lee and Karam Gill, the exhibition traces hip-hop jewelry’s evolution over five decades. It is an opportunity to appreciate how hip-hop has influenced mainstream fashion and jewelry design, transforming what was once niche into a globally embraced aesthetic. The exhibition, set in the Museum’s Meister Gallery, not only celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop but also traces its evolution through jewelry, beginning with the oversized gold chains of the 1980s, moving through the record label pendants set with diamonds in the 1990s, and continues into the 2000s, where avant-garde jewelry styles draw inspiration from high fashion, pop culture, and rap history.

“These jewelry pieces are not just magnificent in and of themselves; they’re an important part of hip-hop history and hip-hop culture as artists claimed and transformed traditional symbols of luxury and success,” said Sean M. Decatur, President of the American Museum of Natural History. “Hip-hop jewelry has had a huge impact on our wider modern culture, and we are excited to provide our visitors the opportunity to see these remarkable pieces, especially in the context of our Mignone Halls dedicated to gems and minerals.”

Designed for Bad Bunny by ALLIGATOR JESUS (David Tamargo) in 2023, this grill set features 14-karat white gold with sparkling diamonds and rhodium plating.

A sea of dazzling jewelry surrounded guests, not just on display but also adorning the crowd itself. The packed audience marveled at the gem-encrusted pieces and how they tell Hip-Hop’s story over time. The energy in the room was contagious, and it was clear that perhaps no other jewelry exhibit had sparked so much public interest, which is a testament to the influence of Hip-Hop culture in the last 50 years.

“Ice Cold will truly spark a sense of excitement and curiosity into our world of jewelry and baubles as an extended form of hip-hop culture which has inspired the global stage as an extension of our art,” said hip-hop icon and Ice Cold senior advisor Ricky “Slick Rick” Waters. “This collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History is a harmonious blend of creativity and cultural significance. I’m very honored to be a part of creating a unique and immersive experience for the Museum’s visitors in such a renowned space in the mecca of New York City.”

Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry opens at the American Museum of Natural History on May 9, in the
Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery, part of the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals.

With an enthralling mix of music, culture, and style, the Ice Cold opening party shows the transformative power of hip-hop and its deep-rooted connection to natural diamond jewelry. The exhibition presents a glittering homage to the pioneers and trailblazers who have elevated hip-hop jewelry to an art form. It’s more than an exhibit; it’s a celebration of the individuality, empowerment, and resilience of the Hip-Hop community that continues to shape modern culture. It’s a reminder that the genre is everlasting, like the natural diamonds it celebrates.

Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry is a must-see for anyone passionate about jewelry, music, or simply curious to explore the stories behind the bling. The exhibit runs until January 5th, 2025, in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery within the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History