Even in the world of high-end jewelry, Cuban link chains are a symbol of luxury. The price of this 18-karat gold chain is $27,000. Some of the most valuable chains will cost ten times as much. A single chain requires the expertise of more than five experienced jewelers and can take up to 12 hours to complete. So, how are Cuban links created? Is that why they’re so expensive? Someone had to spend 14 hours of their day running hot steel through machinery, then turning it by hand, filing it by hand, and polishing it by hand. You’re not just wearing a chain around your neck; you’re wearing someone else’s blood, sweat, tears, and passion.
The origin of the Cuban link chain is difficult to pinpoint, but it most likely did not begin in Cuba. It was a staple of hip-hop style in the 1970s and 1980s, and its popularity grew as hip-hop became more mainstream in the United States. However, not all Cuban link chains are the same. Many Cuban link chains are manufactured by machines in countries such as the United States, Italy, and China, but the most authentic – and most expensive – ones are made by hand in only a few shops in Miami.
When you get to the higher end of Cuban link chains, which are $50,000, $80,000, and $100,000 chains, those have to be handcrafted. One, because of the meticulous attention to detail. The file, the close connections.
Shara: It’s like visiting a Ferrari dealership. You could buy a Ferrari off the lot or have one custom-made to your specifications. This is a one-of-a-kind creation.
This chain goes through 30 manual – and time-consuming – stages. The skills are the result of your ability, practice, and knowledge. I can’t give you an exact figure for the entire world. There are only a few people, literally a few people, in South Florida who can do this.
Not only is this a time-consuming process, but it’s also dangerous. Chino and his team use 1,000-degree flames to melt the gold and shape it into a bar. Chino: In this job, you have to pay close attention to what you’re doing. You’re going to hurt yourself if you make one mistake. There have been incidents where people have lost their fingers in this business.
To make it thinner, that bar is rolled through a rolling machine up to 12 times. Each of Gold Fever Miami’s nine jewelers has a specific job. One jeweler can spend over an hour at the stretch bench simply stretching wire to length.
This isn’t dirt; it’s real gold. You can see gold flakes on my hands if you look closely.
This wire is then curled around a copper rod to form the shape for the links. A drill is sufficient for smaller chains. Thicker ones, on the other hand, necessitate the combined strength of two jewelers. The most critical stage of the process follows. It also necessitates the most skill.
The soldering is the most difficult aspect of your work. Essentially, what you’re doing is heating up gold and introducing solder just before it begins to break down and melt.
So it’s a delicate balance of applying the right amount of flame with the right amount of technique so that when those two metals come into contact, the solder melts and fuses into the gold. So, if you wait too long, the entire thing becomes liquid gold. If you do it too soon, the solder will not melt properly and there will be no fusion between the links. You can’t mess that up or you’ll create gaps in the chain. And you can’t be afraid to stop and start over again.
It’s no secret that the price of gold influences the price of these chains. Even though an ounce of gold costs $1,700 today, even the most expensive Cuban links are mixed with something else. Gold is a very soft material that is typically too soft to be used to make jewelry on its own. Other metals must be alloyed with it. White gold, for example, is a gold alloy composed of white metals such as silver, zinc, and nickel. These metals soften the gold, allowing it to be stretched and twisted during the jewelry-making process. They can, however, be particularly difficult to work with. A single small movement can make a huge difference. This can happen in rare cases with white gold.
It’s because of this that it’s so expensive. If any of these links break, you must return it to the soldering table, resold it, and bring it back here to be turned again.
The chain will lie flat once the links have been properly turned and tightened. A jeweler must then file down the chain so that each side is level and identical.
And this is where the jeweler’s passion comes into play, in terms of how beautiful he can make that shape.
But it wasn’t until recently that these Cuban connections became so sought after and valuable. According to Google Trends, searches for Cuban link chains began to increase in 2012. Gold Fever Miami’s sales have increased 100-fold in the last two years. Every month, the shop sold $2,000 in Cuban links. That figure has now surpassed $200,000. Whether you’re the most famous rapper or just starting out, you need jewelry to legitimize yourself as a rapper. You also have a Miami Cuban link chain if you wear jewelry.
Quamane McGee: In 2012, Jay-Z wore one of the most expensive Cuban links ever made, valued at $200,000. A year later, in a music video, Daddy Yankee debuted his 10-kilo Cuban link chain. And there’s even more buzz in the music industry right now.
Micheal James: They’re inextricably linked to pop culture, specifically hip-hop and reggaeton. Almost every song with a music video features a rapper wearing a Miami Cuban link chain.
Shara: It’s almost become a status symbol. Customers have asked us to match their Rolexes to their chains.
Quamane McGee: These versions are frequently adorned with diamonds, which naturally raises the price. On the other hand, Micheal does not see a slowing in demand for chains like this or smaller ones. As of March 2021, we are pumping anywhere from 10 to 15 kilos every five days or every five weeks. And we’re still unable to meet demand. We still have a five to seven-week wait.
Quamane McGee: This, combined with the high price of gold, suggests that prices are unlikely to fall anytime soon. The polishing has to be my favorite part of the process. It’s when you see a lovely piece of metal transformed into a lovely piece of jewelry. Plus, it’s the final step, so we’re done.