Whether for status or style, gold adorned teeth are an age old tradition. From pharaohs to Madonna and everyone in between, golds have transcended race and culture to become one of the most popular body modifications around the globe. Most popularly know as hip-hop’s best friend, grills rose to prominence in cities like Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta in the early 2000s. However, they have had a widespread presence for at least a century across Eastern Europe. Early versions were installed over healthy teeth that had been filed down, but now “fronts” can be removed at leisure. Take a trip with Tomboy BLKYN down memory lane for the history of gold teeth and a roundup of some of our favorite historical moments.

2000BC: Ancient Egyptians replaced and bound teeth using gold wire and plates.

800AD: Mayans adorned their teeth by drilling small holes in them and filling with gemstones like jade.

1483: The first prototype for gold teeth as we know them was created by dentist Giovanni d’Arcoli. Teeth were cleaned removing the decay and covered with gold leaf, because the cost of gold leaf this was a luxury extended only to the wealthy.

1855: Dentist Robert Arthur improved on Giovanni d’Arcoli’s technique by using the less expensive gold foil instead of gold leaf as fillings, making it accessible to a wider range of consumers.

**in certain regions of the world , especially in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Countries, Central Asia, and the Caucasus Regions, gold teeth are worn as a status symbol; a symbol of wealth…. installed in the place of healthy teeth or as crowns over filed down healthy teeth

1940s: Dental surgeons in the Auschwitz concentration camp extracted the gold teeth and fillings of gassed prisoners along with their gold jewelry. The gold was then melted down and sold.

1980s/1990s: Eddie Plien brings gold teeth to hip hop outfitting rappers like Flavor Flav, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G Rap. He later moves to Atlanta and opens Eddie’s Gold Teeth where he becomes the go-to guy for hip-hop’s elite.

1998: Johnny Dang and Paul Wall open TV Jewelry selling gold and diamond grills to Houston residents and beyond, helping to shed light to the southern underground scene to the MTV crowd.

2005: Nelly releases his song “Grillz”, bringing gold teeth to the mainstream.


Now: Artists are exploring taking the art of the grill into new directions.  From CR Fashion book, “Merry, an art director, and Dolly, a dental technician, both 26—create their signature “grillz” with an unerring eye for detail and an irresistible savoir faire. They carefully craft the mouthpieces using precious metals like cobalt chromium and gold, then add special details like lace and jewels to contrast the whiteness of the teeth. The result is a megawatt style with plenty of bite.”


Written by Stephanye Watts