California thieves eye gold ‘grills’ during shaky economy
Published June 21, 2012
Robbers targeted a 17-year-old who had his grill of gold mouth jewelry taken in South Sacramento.
The Sheriff’s Department said three men, at least one armed with a gun, beat the teen who was sitting in a car early Sunday morning. Besides taking cash, they took his gold grill, the mouth jewelry worn by many hip-hop fans.
With robbers going wild, stealing gold chains from victims in Stockton, it stands to reason that a grill would be stolen. An average set covering the upper and lower teeth can cost between $600 and $1,600. More if they are embedded with diamonds.
“They’re advertising and putting themselves up there to get robbed,” said South Sacramento resident Ricky Mayers.
Ben Jefferson agrees, even though he knows many people who have them.
“Just any kind of gold you’re vulnerable. It’s a good opportunity for (robbers) to go after it,” said Jefferson.
Grills were born in the 1980’s with the rise of the hip-hop culture in New York. They reached the height of popularity in the mid-2000’s, after rappers and athletes gave them plenty of exposure. While demand has dropped off, they are still a status symbol.
Miguel Johnson was shopping at Ko Ko Jewelry, one of the original grill shops in Sacramento. He lost his when he left it in a restaurant napkin.
“It’s a sign that you’ve accumulated wealth, that you’ve earned some money,” said Johnson.
He says his Bay Area friends still go all out with up to 10 upper teeth and 10 lower teeth covered with their grills.
“When you smile or laugh you can see all the way to the back of your neck,” said Johnson.