Golden grillz are decorative front covers made of gold that are fixed over teeth. Grillz can be removable but can even permanently replace tooth crown. In the modern times, gold grillz have become synonymous with hip-hop stars. Apart from trademark golden chains, hoodies, necklaces and other fashion accoutrements, many rappers also wear golden grillz. Dental gold is not pure gold. The gold grillz are usually gold alloy which has other metals as well such as silver, tin, copper and palladium. This is because pure gold tends to deform in the mouth due to its high malleability. Since gold does not react with the chemicals present in a human body, gold grillz do not corrode in the mouth.
Let’s have a look at the journey of gold grillz from the ancient times to the modern world.
Ancient Egyptians were believed to be the pioneers of gold teeth after archaeologists discovered a body from ancient Egypt which had two teeth wrapped in gold wire buried with it. Later it was determined that the teeth were not in the person’s mouth and it was hypothesised that the teeth were likely to be worn as necklace on gold wire by the long dead Egyptian.
As per historians, the pioneers of gold teeth were the Etruscans. This was a wealthy community which inhabited present day Italy. They were known for their goldworking talent. Women of the community who had enough wealth used to get their teeth replaced with hollow gold teeth. Etruscans lived from 800 BC till 200 BC when the Romans conquered them.
Mayans also used grillz to decorate their teeth. However, they used precious stones like jade and turquoise to embellish their teeth. The practice was more prevalent among the Mayan royalty. The precious gems used to be fitted in the holes made in the teeth. The gems were shaped to fit the holes perfectly. Thus, early grillz made of precious stones were associated with the ancient Mayans.
About 4000 years ago, the wealthy people and tribal chiefs inhabiting the islands of Philippines either used gold capping for teeth or even replaced teeth with gold. The testimonies of European travelers, merchants and missionaries who descended on the Philippines regarding the gold grillz of native people are the major proofs.
Association with rap music
Natives of the Caribbean islands who did not have enough money to pay for good quality dental treatment used to replace their lost teeth using gold grillz. Many of these natives migrated to the USA and caught the attention of New York jewelers. The jewelers started marketing the gold grillz as a status symbol. Consequently, in the 1980s, hip-hop artists flush with money started viewing gold grillz as a good option to showcase their wealth. However, gold grillz hit the limelight due to a New York jeweler Eddie Plein. He made gold grillz for popular rap artists like Flavor Flav of Public Enemy and Big Daddy Kane of Juice Crew. The gold grillz became a popular fashion statement in the USA and gradually the world during the 1990s and early years of the 21st century.
In 2005 the popularity of grillz soared when Nelly launched his song named “Grillz”. The song exhorting the virtue of gold grillz topped US Billboard Hot 100 and attracted many hip-hop fans towards gold grillz. This tune by Nelly is considered as a big boost to the popularity of gold grillz.