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The Significance Of Religious Pendants’ Links With Hip Hop

Jewellery has provided a way to demonstrate religious beliefs for many years, with different religions using unique symbols as a representation of faith. Over the last 30 years, religious symbols have increased in popularity within the hip hop industry, from Kanye’s religious jewellery collection to Jay Z being adorned with the Jesus pendant on the cover of XXL in the late 90s.

In this guide, Hatton Jewellers’ expert team share their hip hop knowledge to help you understand what the Jesus piece is and explain its close ties to hip hop. We also examine other ways that jewellery is linked to religions of the world.

What Is a Jesus Piece? 

A Jesus piece is a form of jewellery, usually made from gold or silver, that is regarded as one of the most iconic examples of hip hop jewellery. It is designed to have a likeness of Jesus Christ, often with a crown of thorns, encrusted in gemstones or diamonds. 

Jay Z, Biggie and LL Cool J have all been seen to wear the Jesus piece, helping to transform it into the popular hip hop jewellery statement piece it is today. 

The Origin of a Jesus Necklace

Hip hop jewellery and faith are closely interlinked throughout the history of rap, with many hip hop artists having a staggering net worth that’s helped to build up their huge jewellery collections. The Jesus piece has arguably become one the most important pieces of jewellery within rap culture.

The Jesus pendant usually features a crown of thorns and is embellished with precious metals and gemstones including diamonds and rubies. The iced out piece is even mentioned during many artists’ raps, with the Notorious B.I.G  mentioning the iconic piece in his lyrics “You seen the Jesus… Even got rocks in the beard and moustache” on his Life After Death album in 1999.

Why Do Rappers Wear Religious Jewellery?

Rappers often wear religious jewellery as a way to share their beliefs with their audience. It can also be a symbol of success following the struggles and failures that these artists often go through as they strive to become a success within the music industry.

Who Made the Jesus Piece Famous?

In 2004 Kanye West helped create a custom Jesus piece in collaboration with the prominent hip hop jewellery artist Jacob Arabo. Costing approximately $25,000, the gold pendant was around  the size of a man's palm, dripping in clear, yellow and light brown diamonds, as well as aquamarines and rubies. 

This stunning piece arguably helped cement the position of the Jesus piece as the ultimate in hip hop iconography. Kanye once again showed his love for this particular piece of jewellery when he featured on The Game’s track ’Jesus Piece’ in 2012.

Who Wore the Jesus Piece First?

Kanye West is perhaps best known for wearing the Jesus piece after he brought out a line of religious themed jewellery back in 2004. However, it has been recalled that the Jesus necklace was often seen around the neck of the Notorious B.I.G during the mid 1990s. 

Jay Z, who collaborated with both of those artists, also gave the trend a huge boost when he wore a Jesus piece on the cover of XXL magazine in 1999 alongside artists from his label Roc-A-Fella Records. 

Religious Jewellery - Fashion or Faith?

Cross necklaces have been around for centuries, first originating within the Christian faith. However, although they have a rich religious history, in recent years the gold cross pendant has become popular among jewellers and within the fashion industry. In fact, today it could be argued that there are as many people wearing a cross for aesthetic value as there are people showing their religious beliefs.

While Christians see the cross as a way of protecting themselves against evil, many others wear it purely to accessorise an outfit. With celebrities such as Kendall Jenner known for wearing cross jewellery, it is easy to see why many people see it as a trend over and above a lifestyle, with many even wearing a cross as a statement piece. 

Who Is St. Christopher?

St. Christopher is one of the most well-known saints of the faith within the Catholic church, the patron saint of travelers. Medals and pendants featuring the saint’s image are some of the most popular icons within the Catholic faith.

What Does a St. Christopher Necklace Mean?

Many followers of the Catholic faith wear the St. Christopher pendant to show devotion to the saint for safety and protection, especially while travelling. However, you don’t have to be religious to wear a gold St. Christopher necklace, as it can represent adventure and be worn as a symbol of safety whilst travelling. 

The pendant itself can come in various different metals and styles, but each depict the same or a very similar picture of St. Christopher. A bearded man is usually depicted carrying a young child across a river. It is also popular for the medal to be inscribed with “St. Christopher Protect Us” or “St. Christopher Be My Guide”.

The History of Religious Jewellery

Jewellery has been used across the world in different cultures throughout history. While today the main use of jewellery is for fashion, it can also be used to represent different factors about an individual's life such as marital status and religion. Expressing religion was in fact one of the first uses of jewellery that can be seen across history.  

Egyptian Religious Jewellery

Just like many religions, historic jewellery in Egypt was highly symbolic. Some of the most common symbols of Egyptian jewellery are the scarab (beetle), a symbol of good luck, and the eye which symbolises healing. It is most often made out of gold with semi-precious stones and these icons are still hugely popular today. 

Roman / Christian Religious Jewellery

The most popular symbols that were used in historic Christian jewellery are still widely used within the faith today, in particular the cross or crucifix. It represents hope and love, and serves as a reminder of the suffering of Jesus for believers. Rosary beads are also popular within the religion, still widely used as prayer beads within the Catholic church. 

Islamic Religious Jewellery

Religious jewellery within the Islamic faith often features symbols such as a star floating inside a crescent moon, symbolising the beginning and end of fasting during Ramadan. This symbol however did not originate with Islam and is regarded as one of the oldest known images in human history. 

Judaic Religious Jewellery

One of the most typical symbols throughout history associated with Jewish jewellery is the Star of David. This icon symbolised being protected from six directions; north, east, south, west, up and down, as well as the centre.

Religious jewellery can be seen throughout history and more recently within hip hop culture. Whether you’re wanting to know more about hip hop jewellery or are looking to purchase rap-inspired pieces, check out the
Hatton Jewellers blog.