These designers make expensive bling for rappers

Toronto rapper Killy, with jeweler Joe Avianne.

When rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was robbed, shot in the leg and kidnapped two weeks ago in Crown Heights, the 22-year-old lost some signature jewelry — including, according to insiders, a shimmery My Little Pony pendant (topped with rainbow-dyed human hair) and a jewel-encrusted rendering of Billy the Puppet from the “Saw” movies. They may sound like mall trinkets from Claire’s, but these custom pieces cost around $50,000 each.

Tekashi is hardly alone in coveting super-pricey bling that appears to be designed for tweens. While old-school rappers showed their success by sporting diamond-laced dollar signs and Mercedes-Benz logos, the new trend is pieces based on cartoon characters and goofball icons out of pop culture.

On a recent Friday at Avianne, a West 47th Street jewelry shop that’s a favorite of Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, Toronto-based rapper Killy, 21, dropped by to pick up his latest accessory: A 3-inch-high pendant of the Pokémon character Gengar. It’s covered in some 1,600 diamonds with rubies for eyes.

“To most people this is just a Pokémon, but it was a big part of my childhood. It made me into the person that everyone loves,” said Killy. “Plus it looks so f–king nice.”

A piece like Killy’s would fetch $30,000 to $100,000, depending on the size, complexity and value of the jewels — but the rapper was coy as to what he paid for his.

Some of the jewelry available at Avianne, including a Yoda pendant (far right)
Some of the jewelry available at Avianne, including a Yoda pendant (far right)Stefano Giovannini

Also at Avianne was Levi Carter, a 24-year-old Bronx rapper whose 2017 track “You Not Gang (Remix)” featuring Lil Yachty has racked up tens of thousands of streams on SoundCloud.

Carter was retrieving a diamond-festooned Rolex but has gem-encrusted cartoon dreams of his own.

“I’m gonna get [a pendant of] Riley from ‘Boondocks’ — we’re the same person,” he said. “It will remind me of a time of innocence.”

While those colorful pieces catch eyes and generate headlines, they can also attract the wrong kind of attention.

“The more diamonds you get, the more you’re a target,” warned Ezra Averill, a manager whose acts include Carter and Tay-K, the incarcerated Dallas rapper accused of participating in a home invasion and fatal shooting. “But it’s all part of the game.”

Upon his client’s anticipated release, Averill added, “Tay-K is hopefully gonna get a ‘Rugrats’ [pendant] as a coming-home present.”

Part of the game also is to commission one-of-a-kind pieces that are bigger, wilder and more complicated than what other rappers rock.

Avianne Jewelers at West 47th Street
Avianne Jewelers at West 47th StreetStefano Giovannini

Take 6ix9ine’s swiped “Saw” pendant, which was made by jeweler JimmyBoi Phan of Houston. Phan, who is soon to deliver an upgraded version of the piece (along with a spinning 69 charm to replace the $150,000 one that was stolen), views the “Saw” character as next-level bling: “There are mechanisms inside the mouth, including a spring and a washer, which allow it to open and close.”

Christian Johnston and Dan Folger, partners in the Miami jewelry line GLD, crafted the My Little Pony for 6ix9ine and are creating a pendant, for a rapper they cannot name, that takes things completely over the top. “It will be a skull head, battery-operated, with a mouth that moves up and down and eyes that light up,” said Folger. The price tag? “Around $65,000.”

Meanwhile, judging by the GLD guys’ newest pendant for 6ix9ine, the Brooklyn-born rapper might be outgrowing his predilection for nostalgia.

“It says ‘Tr3yway’ and has blood-red-colored jewelry enamel dripping from it,” said Johnston, noting the name is a nod to Tekashi’s manager’s crew.

“It will have 3,000 diamonds and be 3¼ inches tall, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you have this heavy piece around your neck.”

Sans chain, its costs $40,000.

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