“I melt down the chains that I bought from yo' boss/Give a fuck about all of that heritage shit,” raps Drake on Utopia’s “Meltdown.”
This bar, which marks the latest sub in Drake’s ongoing beef with Pusha T, is a standout moment of Travis Scott’s new album. For those unaware, those chains Drake is talking about are the almost $3 million worth of iconic pieces made by Jacob the Jeweler for Pharrell throughout the 2000s. Drake purchased them from the first Joopiter auction back in 2022. Just weeks later, he appeared in his video for “Jumbotron Shit Poppin” rocking them all at once, just like Pharrell would have back in the day. At the time, it was seen as nothing more than Drake’s latest homage to one of hip-hop’s greatest producers. But after hearing “Meltdown,” did he spend $3 million just to troll Pusha T? We may never know the real motive. But it sure is entertaining.
While many people immediately thought about the Drake/Pusha T saga after “Meltdown” dropped, we also thought about something else. What if Drake actually did melt down Pharrell’s old chains? What’s the process for destroying millions of dollars worth of custom jewelry? Is it even possible? So we asked two veterans in the jewelry industry, owner of Trax NYC Maksud Agadjani and Jason Arasheben, better known as Jason of Beverly Hills. Coincidentally, the former posted a video on his Instagram page educating his followers about the process of melting down old jewelry, just days before “Meltdown” was released.
“Gold has a lot of interesting properties in this society other than just being a shiny, expensive metal,” Agadjani tells Complex when asked why he decided to make the video. “The only thing you learn in this country right now is, ‘I want more money.’ That's the only thing this generation knows, but they don't know anything about money. And that's why I'm here to explain my part, so we can be a somewhat enlightened society when it comes to precious metals. It's something that I learned over 20 years that I can share with the world.”
When asked about the “Meltdown” lyrics, Arasheben, who has created various pieces including these championship rings for Drake in the past, admits that he’s actually melted down iconic hip-hop jewelry before.
“I have and honestly I wish I never did,” Arasheben says via email. “I would have been able to build a shrine with all the pieces. One piece that comes to mind is the legendary Eagle cuff for Ghostface Killah. That's a piece of hip-hop history.”
While the jury is still out on whether Drake actually destroyed some of the greatest custom jewelry ever made (we really hope it was just for the raps), we needed some clarity on the hypothetical meltdown. Check out the rest of both jewelers’ responses below.
Have you heard Drake’s verse? As a jeweler yourself, did you have any reaction?
Trax: I mean it was very peculiar because I do this all the time. This is the first time anybody's talked about melting down anything. Perhaps it was influenced by some of the things that I've done, perhaps not. But I found it pleasant, to say the least.
Jason of Beverly Hills: I've definitely heard the verse. I don't necessarily have a reaction towards it. I saw the story that he purchased some iconic jewelry pieces that had previously belonged to Pharrell. We really haven't discussed it. I do know that he is not only an artist, but also has an appreciation of all things hip-hop. At the end of the day, Drake is one of the greatest and most legendary entertainers this generation has ever seen. Every word he says is calculated and intentional, but who am I to determine the intent behind his lyrics? I guess that'll just be up to our imagination.
What is the proper procedure to melt down a chain like that?
Trax: When I do it, I just collect scraps over a course of time. It might be six months, might be a year — some jewelers wait three or four years. I like to keep my scraps until it's worth at least $150,000, and then I melt that down and put it back into my business. You have to give it to a jeweler that takes out all of the diamonds by hand if you don't want to damage the diamonds, and then you throw it in a big pot called a crucible. That heats up using electromagnetic forces and melts down. You can melt it all down into a bar that’s much easier to sell than bringing a bunch of scraps to the refinery.
Jason of Beverly Hills: When you are melting a chain like that, you first put it in a special type of acid that will make it easier to melt the gold and protect whatever gemstones are set into the piece. After that you bring on the extreme heat until all you have left is a solid piece of gold and loose stones.
How long does it typically take?
Trax: Maybe an hour, not including the removal of the stones. Depending on how many diamonds, it might take a day or two with a separate jeweler. But when you're melting, it's like an hour and a half process.
Jason of Beverly Hills: Not very long at all. The whole process can be done within an hour's time.
Is that a common practice in the jewelry industry for valuable pieces like that or just for scraps?
Trax: Well, I mean, [Drake] is saying it out of spite, right? You wouldn't melt those pieces down. You don't melt down collectible stuff for scrap. What [Drake] is talking about is an insult. Sometimes you have artists trade their stuff in. I resell them to other clients. I don't melt them down. People want them. But that doesn't happen if it's a real celebrity, like Pharrell or whoever — you don’t melt that shit down. You put it in a museum.
Jason of Beverly Hills: I melt down jewelry all the time. It’s a pretty common occurrence. A lot of customers come and want to have old pieces melted down so we can use the diamonds and gold to make new pieces for them. That is a pretty common occurrence, particularly in the entertainment industry. A very small percentage are melting old pieces to get back gold bars.
Is it necessary to remove the diamonds before proceeding with the melting process?
Trax: The diamonds would not melt, but if you don’t take them out they may get lost in the gold and get dirty. Especially with scraps and things like that, there's a lot of other impurities. And you have to put in borax to separate the two, so the gold could sink down to the bottom, while the sludge is at the top. You're going to have diamonds lodged inside of gold that are superheated. In some cases, they might have tar on them and then you have to chemically treat them to remove all that. So who wants to do that?
Jason of Beverly Hills: No, it is not. Once you apply extreme heat, the metal components will melt and the diamond may become dislodged. There's always a slight risk of altering the diamond's color or clarity during the melting process, which could affect its value.
Is it worth it to melt down jewelry? Or would it devalue the materials?
Trax: It's beneficial. If I have a piece of jewelry, let's say a Jesus piece, that doesn't sell for a long, long time; it isn’t going to do anything for me sitting there. I’d rather just lose a little bit of the money, the 10 to 20%, melt it down, and turn it into a piece of jewelry that sells. So in some cases, it is way better to melt and keep it moving. In other cases, it's way better to keep the piece as is until it finds a buyer. In the case of Pharrell’s pieces, it's definitely not in your best interest to melt them down. Those are iconic, collectible pieces that his fans would buy.
Jason of Beverly Hills: I personally don't think it's worth it. When you have a piece of jewelry, you have to understand that a large portion of the value is buried in the cost of labor. You are not getting any of that money back when you decide to melt down a piece. Melting a piece down doesn't diminish the value of the gold, but it definitely can affect the quality of the gemstones set into the original piece. I usually advise my clients against it, but 9 times out of 10 they are willing to take the loss so they can make a fresh new chain.
There are hundreds of hours and long nights that go into designing and creating a chain, and it feels like it's all for nothing when it's melted down.
Can it only be done professionally? Or if I wanted, could I melt down my old gold jewelry?
Trax: Yeah, you could do it with a blowtorch, if you wanted to. You just blast it right on the piece. The gold is going to take all that heat, and then, in one fantastic moment, liquidate.
Jason of Beverly Hills: Unless you have an obsession with burning down your house or setting yourself on fire, I definitely do not recommend you doing it yourself. Let the professionals do it. Not only is it dangerous for an untrained person to take this on, but jewelers have the proper equipment and are trained to do it in a way that minimizes the risk of damaging the diamonds.
If Drake came to you and asked you to melt down Pharrell’s pieces, would you be apprehensive, given what they are, or would you do it?
Trax: I would do what's in the interest of my business. And when Drake asks you to melt something down, you say, ‘Sure, no problem.’ Unless I had an alliance or a business interest with Pharrell. Now, I do business with Busta Rhymes. Busta Rhymes is friends with Pharrell. So do I want to be friends with Pharrell, or do I want to be friends with Drake? Is Pharrell going to do for me what Drake would? There’s a little bit of those politics. That would be the way to figure out the answer to that question.
Jason of Beverly Hills: At the end of the day, I have to follow the request of my client, but I would definitely advise against it. Those are significant pieces, but he can do whatever he wants — he's Drake and the customer is always right.