6When you hear someone say “hip hop,” you probably think of the legendary rappers that helped define an entire genre. However, it’s impossible to look back at icons like Notorious B.I.G or Tupac without acknowledging the studded golden chains that cemented hip hop artists into a style all their own.
Although most of us probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, most of these chains came in an assortment of styles, with some rappers donning signature chains with iconic links. One of the most popular styles is known as the Miami Cuban link chain.
So what exactly makes the Cuban link stand out from other varieties? Where did it originate, and where can you get one for yourself?
Origins of the Cuban Chain
Before chains were used as stylish accessories, they were used as functional items to make daily life easier. Some of the earliest known uses of the chain date back to 225 B.C., where there is evidence that chains were used to pull water buckets out of wells.
While chains still have practical uses today, the rise of the hip hop era in the 1970s and 80s is really where chains in fashion began to garner public attention. Influencers likeDJ Kool Herc and Notorious B.I.G popularized gold chains as a means of symbolizing success and notoriety.
With more rappers donning this look came more competition to stand out among the pack. This is where jewelers began to experiment with different chain lengths, links, and looks, resulting in a slew of possibilities. As a result, Miami-based rappers donned a specific style of chain, which soon became known as the Miami Cuban link.
One could argue that the Cuban link only increased in popularity after renowned artist Jay-Z purchased the most expensive gold chain in all of hip hop. Clocking in at $200,000, the rapper has been seen sporting an 11 pound Miami Cuban link around his neck, solidifying his influence over the community.
What Is a Cuban Link?
Since it’s arguably one of the most identifiable chain links, you’ve probably seen a Miami Cuban link before without ever even realizing it. Cuban chains feature oval-shaped, interconnected buckles. Their design is simple and subdued enough to work on any outfit at any given time.
Even though Jay-Z’s quarter-million-dollar chain looks amazing, that’s a bit outside the budget for most people. Even if you were to buy a modestly sized chain made of solid gold, it could run a price tag of thousands of dollars.
This is whygold-plated Miami Cuban chains are a great investment as opposed to pure gold. Plated jewelry still uses real gold overlaid on top of a high-quality base metal. This means that you can mimic the essence of hip hop legends without the price tags.
Miami Cuban Chain Styles
While the most recognizable version of the Miami Cuban link comes ingold, they could also come in many different colors and widths.
This is by far the most popular version of the Miami Cuban link. When you think of album covers of your favorite rappers or hip hop greats, there’s a high chance that they’ll be wearing a golden Cuban link right on the front.
If you go for a gold plated option, you’ll want to check to see what the base metal is composed of. This will be a good indication of the quality of the piece. Stainless steel and sterling silver are fantastic base metals, so if you buy a plated piece that utilizes them, you’ll be looking like Run DMC in no time.
As opposed to regular gold with its unique brassy sheen, white gold has a metallic appearance that looks a bit more clean and polished. This is a fantastic way to play with the original Miami Cuban style, maintaining its signature look while giving it a more personal and unique flair.
White gold can look especially sleek if you deck it out with your favorite pendant. Diamond pendants with reflective qualities are an excellent accompaniment to the prestige of a white gold chain. Better yet, if you can find a studdedpendant with white gold plating, you’ll turn heads wherever you go.
Similar to white gold, stainless steel has a clean appearance that works with pretty much any look. However, stainless steel is a bit more metallic, meaning that it might not have just as much sheen as a gold or white gold chain.
Still, a stainless steel chain is a cost-effective option that has a lot of potential to spruce up your outfit. Since it is also a popular base metal, you’ll know that a stainless steel chain will be built to last you a long time.
Picking the Right Cuban Chain Length
Whether you want a chain that’s tight or one that weighs you down, picking the right length for your Cuban chain is just as important as picking the right style.
Necklaces are measured in inches based on how long they are when laid out straight. On the shorter end are 18-inch options. These have a bit of hang but will mostly rest directly underneath your neck. Longer options such as 36-inch chains will hang very low, with the lowest point existing near your stomach. Longer chains are usually representative of the old school hip hop style.
If you’re just looking for something to up your game on a daily basis, you’ll probably be sticking in the 18 to 24-inch area. This all comes down to personal preference, depending on how long you want your Miami Chain to look.
Another factor that you’ll want to consider in addition to the length is the chain’s width. This will determine exactly how the density of the chain might look. An8.5 mm Cuban chain will be thinner and more lightweight, whereas a19 mm Cuban link will feel heavier and look thicker. Again, this will come down to your personal style and motivations behind wearing these necklaces.
Other Chain Styles
While the Miami Cuban chain is undoubtedly the most well-known accessory used in hip hop, there is a large variety of other links that can complement your look just as easily.
Perhaps the second most recognizable chain style is called theFranco chain. Franco chains are similar to Cubans; however, these feature about double the amount ofinterlocking links. These necklaces are complex enough to make a statement yet simple enough to work with pendants.
A style that is sure to start conversations because of its signature appearance is aByzantine chain. This necklace has a distinct,organic structural design that is flexible and drapes extremely well. These give off a royal essence, harkening back to the kings andqueens of hip hop music.
Some styles strike a balance between the simplicity of the Cuban link and the intricacy of a Byzantine. An example is theMariner chain, which features uniform oval links connected with a straight link. They’re a bitreminiscent of nautical life, making for a heavy, sturdy chain that is impossible not to notice.
There are many more chain styles to choose from, and you could mix and match multiple chains at one time. Every style listed above would perfectly accompany a Miami Cuban chain. The versatility of this type of link is never-ending, so you can experiment with what makes you feel best.
Miami Cuban chains have a vivid history from the rise of hip hop in the late 1970s. Thanks to names like Run DMC and Jay-Z, this style has become the most renowned and respected chain in both fashion and music culture.
Since pure Cuban chains made of pure gold can run a steep price tag, gold plated options allow anyone to replicate the jewelry of rap legends while keeping their bank account intact. With an assortment of colors and lengths to choose from, Cuban links are a necessary addition to any jewelry drawer.
Not to mention, there are a ton of different chain styles that could be used to accentuate the Cuban chain in many ways. Plus, you could dangle your favorite pendant from your accessory to add a sophisticated, personal flair.