American Museum of Natural History to Open an Exhibit of Hip-Hop Jewelry

Slick Rick/Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip Hop Jewelry. Credit: Janette
Beckman, Courtesy of Fahey/Klein Gallery.

By Gus Saltonstall

The American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side will open a special exhibition this spring that “celebrates hip-hop’s cultural influence through spectacular custom-made jewelry worn by some of its iconic stars.”

“Ice Cold: An Exhibition of Hip-Hop Jewelry” will open on May 9 in the Melissa and Keith Meister Gallery within the museum’s recently redesigned Hall of Gems and Minerals.

“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, in a news release. “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.”

Specifically, the exhibit will trace the evolution of jewelry in hip-hop over the past five decades, starting with the oversized gold chains in the 1980s, up through what present day popular rappers are wearing.

Here are a few of the items that will be on display.

  • Slick Rick’s gem-encrusted crown
  • Notorious B.I.G’s gold ‘Jesus Piece’
  • Jay-Z’s diamond-studded Roc-A-Fella medallion
  • Nicki Minaj’s sparkling ‘Barbie’ pendant

Other rappers that will have pieces of jewelry featured in the exhibit are Erykah Badu, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Ferg, and Tyler the Creator.

The exhibit also aligns with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop as a global phenomenon.

“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 Coldguest curator Vikki Tobak, who is the author of “Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History, which much of the exhibit is based upon.

This exhibit is the first that the American Museum of Natural History has announced since it closed two large halls displaying Native American artifacts, in order to align with new federal regulations requiring museums to get consent from indigenous tribes before displaying their cultural items.

You can find out more about the “Ice Cold” exhibit on the American Museum of Natural History’s website — HERE.

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