Jewelry and Music: The Inseparable Couple
The is no denying the inextricable love affair between the Music industry and the Jewelry industry. Musicians have had a long standing affinity for Fashion jewelry, constantly seeking out both rare and mainstream Luxury pieces. This wonderful synergy, driven by wealth and a deep connection with an artist’s personal style, and particularly their fashion tastes, have helped to drive iconic pieces and signature looks throughout the decades. And just like the celebrated musical artists we revere, it has helped to shape and reinforce the some of the most recognizable styles as we know them today. From Elvis Presley, to Liberace, to Madonna, and to the proliferation and success of the Rap and Hip-Hop movements, jewelry has had a profound effect upon the music Industry. In tandem, this has created a unique symbiosis that will only continue to evolve with time.
“Cardi B for Messika”
If we take a look back to some of our most Iconic performing artists and their relationships with jewelry, Elvis Presley, the “King of Rock and Roll” resonates high on the Richter scale. His passion for jewelry was immense and lasted through his entire career, both on and off the stage. Lowell Hays, who developed a seven year friendship with Presley as his personal jeweler, had countless fascinating and amusing stories from his time spent with the King. His leather bag was a treasure trove of jewelry that he would personally bring to Elvis wherever he was—even a men’s room bathroom stall, at times. Lowell went on create hundreds of unique custom pieces for Elvis. The “Aloha Horseshoe” created for Elvis’ Honolulu performance was designed with a central 10.5 carat diamond surrounded by 11 full-cut round diamonds which sold at auction in 2017 for $204,800.
“Elvis Presley The King”
Presley famously wore gem-encrusted rings and pendants, and often generously gifted the jewelry to friends, colleagues, and fans. It wasn’t unusual for him to wear a favorite piece and then present it to a staffer who admired it. During a 1975 show in North Carolina, Presley asked Hays to bring the jewelry suitcase onstage. Presley then started handing out jewelry to the women in the front row. Hays recalled, “He looked at me and he laughed that little Elvis laugh he has and he said, ‘You know what, Lowell? I’m going to have to sing five minutes more tomorrow night to pay for it.’”
For Presley, jewelry was just another way to express his personality, fashion sense, and wide range of tastes. From gem encrusted belt buckles, huge precious stone rings, and opulent necklaces, the King always found a way to showcase his signature style through the use of jewelry, using it as a way to express his sense for music and fashion.
Bling is to Hip-Hop what Flamboyance is to Liberace. As a matter of fact, Liberace can go down in music history as probably one of the biggest influencers of his time who helped shape the Hip-Hop and Rap jewelry styles we see today. Audacity was Liberace’s calling card, and he took no liberties in flaunting the best of the best in both his jewelry and wardrobe. Although he owned amazing pieces from the likes of Van Cleef and Cartier, he is most remembered for his iconic custom piano rings, candelabra rings, and piano rings, which were always encrusted with precious stones set in his preferred luxury metal of choice, yellow gold. He was also a huge fan of Cocktail rings. “The bigger and grander, the better,” was always his motto.
“Madonna: Rebel Heart Tour”
Music’s influence on jewelry is never complete without a nod to Ms. “Like a Virgin” herself, Madonna. Her influence upon the fashion, jewelry and music industries was epic. When you think of a Crucifix pendant, what performing artist comes to mind? Madonna, in her irreverent, seductive way, managed to build a household name with the Cross Necklace alone. Every young girl in the 80s just had to have one. Madonna, with her layered necklaces and unique jewelry accessorizing, paved the way for fresh fashion and unique jewelry designers who are continuing to ride her style wave to this day.
From the 70s into the mid-80s, there is no question that Hip-Hop and Rap has had the most intimate and provocative relationship with the jewelry world. With the arrival of social media, jewelers and influencers have gained such notoriety that they sometimes achieve the same level of popularity and stardom as the musical artists they serve. Imagine a culture so immersed in jewelry that it managed to get the term “Bling” into the dictionary. “Ice” and “Bling-Bling” are terms which are synonymous with the flamboyant world of Hip-Hop and Rap, creating a competitive environment that pits one artist against another to see who has the most dramatic look. Jewelry became a symbolic milestone in the music industry, allowing artists to celebrate and commemorate their popularity through various status symbols.
“Jay-Z & Beyoncé”
Without a doubt, there are multitudes of characters in the world of Rap and Hip-Hop, and we are familiar with most of them. But just below the surface lies a network of jewelers who specifically cater to this crowd, who in and of themselves have gained celebrity status, even if they are not always talked about.
“Jacob the Jeweler & Pharrell Williams”
If I mentioned the name “Jacob the Jeweler,” I doubt many could tell me his significance. But to the Hip-Hop community, he was dubbed “the Harry Winston of the Hip-Hop world,” according to a 1999 New York Times interview. He has served such artists as Diddy, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Missy Elliot, and Busta Rhymes, just to name a few. In fact, Jacob’s pieces became so popular that artists have mentioned him in over 68 songs. If you have ever seen Pharell’s BBC/Ice-Cream chain, then you are aware of Jacob’s work (at an estimated worth of $100,000 USD).
“Tupac (2Pac) Shakur & The Notorious B.I.G.”
As the Hip-Hop industry began to flourish in the 90s, by the time the year 2000 came along, artists had their own retail lines. Hedge-fund managers started to invest in them, and before you know it, a huge empire transpired. With all of this newfound wealth, gold was replaced by platinum and diamonds became the norm as the new status symbols for this emerging era. It is interesting to see that these artists don’t just stop at a necklace—they usually will accessorize an entire look while adding the ring, earring, bracelet, watch, and potentially “Grillz” for their teeth. It is such a symbiotic relationship that the big Industry jewelry names love it for the PR they get, and the artists love to flaunt the best-of-the-best with respect to style and looks. The creation of a subculture of Hip-Hop jewelers makes for an even more interesting scenario. From Biggie’s massive Jesus chain by Tito the Jeweler, to Chamillionaire’s Chameleon pendant valued at $100K by Johnny Dang, the industry is ripe with opulence and bravado that truly speaks to the music itself.
As Hip-Hop and Rap were an incentive to escape a particular lifestyle that included poor socio-economic status, it cemented a very strong bond with the jewelry world—so much so that jewelry went on to symbolize a “Trophy” that all artists aspired to acquire, and the bigger the better. Just like the labels and gangs they went on to represent, the competition is still fierce amongst these artists as they continue to vie for the most expensive and audacious pieces they can conjure up. The synergy between music artists and the jewelry industry remains strong, even as the landscape continues to change. World events have done little to stifle the relationship between the music and jewelry industries, and the future looks bright and shiny.
Within every genre of music, standout icons have emerged, rocking unforgettable styles that become a significant part of popular culture.
The relationship between these two industries runs so historically deep, and I doubt that this symbiosis will ever change. The shared values between both industries speaks to a long future together, and it will be exciting to see what new creations will occur in the years to come.
Images Courtesy of Pinterest & Creative Commons
About The Author
Debbie Azar is the Co-Founder and President of Gemological Science International (GSI), one of the largest gemological organizations in the world, and a distinguished leader in the global diamond and jewelry industry. As an executive with extensive knowledge of the jewelry and gem lab industries, her entrepreneurial skills and vision have helped GSI achieve rapid and continuous growth worldwide, establishing 13 leading-edge gemological facilities on four continents. She currently serves on the boards of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Responsible Jewellery Council, and Jewelers for Children, and is a member of the 24 Karat Club of New York. She has been featured in Forbes, Daily Mail, Good Morning America, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fox Business, Fox5, CBS2, BOLDTV, Varney&Co, The Street, and NASDAQ, among others.