Inside the ‘Ice Cold: An Exploration of Hip-Hop Jewelry’ Exhibition at the AMNH

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The American Museum of Natural History has cut the ribbon on its latest exhibition: a collection of 68 iced-out creations from hip-hop history, titled Ice Cold: An Exploration of Hip-Hop Jewelry. Located in the Allison and Roberto Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, the showcase builds on New York City’s celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary by spotlighting the evolution of rap’s most famous chains over the past five decades.

“For some people, it’s so unexpected to have this at the Museum of Natural History,” guest curator Vikki Tobak, who authored the book after which the exhibition is named, told Vogue. “But when you think about the place that these artifacts and pieces have in pop culture and mainstream culture, it makes absolute sense to put them in the context of gems, minerals commodities throughout time. Hip-hop jewelry has influenced the luxury and mainstream markets, what we wear and how we wear it, so telling that story from the ’70s until now is really special.”

As the first major show to highlight hip-hop’s gems, the exhibition houses history-making customs from the likes of Slick Rick, the Notorious B.I.G., JAY-Z, Nicki Minaj, Erykah Badu, A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Tyler, the Creator and more. The gallery is divided into several cases, many of which boast names akin to prominent songs in the genre.

“Hey Young World,” for instance, opens the show with Slick Rick’s glorious crystal crown, Pharrell’s Jacob & Co. belt buckle and A$AP Rocky’s diamond-encrusted, 14-karat gold Lego pendant, among several other creations. Another section, titled “Code of the Streets,” houses famous nameplates, like Biz Markie’s gold iteration from 1986; and “You See Us” focuses on customization, with pieces like the nipple covers Cardi B wore in her “WAP” music video.

Elsewhere, the showcase features Beyoncé’s nail rings, Erykah Badu’s opal grills, Lil Nas X’s “Call Me By Your Name” David Tamargo grill set and Run-DMC’s 14-karat gold sneaker-shaped pendants, which were gifted to the group by adidas after the success of their 1986 track, “My Adidas.” Nicki Minaj’s classic Barbie pendant—made by Ashna Mehta from 54.47 carats of diamonds on 18-karat gold and bright pink enamel—is another must-see, as is Johnny Nelson’s custom 14-karat gold necklace modeled after some of the greatest female names in hip-hop: Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu.

Naturally, the showcase is soundtracked by a playlist featuring hip-hop classics from Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” to Queen Latifah’s “Latifah’s Had It Up to Here.”

“’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 state as an extension of our art,” said Slick Rick, who acted as a senior advisor for the exhibition, in a statement.

Ice Cold: An Exploration of Hip-Hop Jewelry is now open at the American Museum of Natural History through January 5, 2025. Take a look at what’s inside via the gallery above, and reserve tickets on the museum’s webstore.


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