2021 might just be another lost year for music. For the last two months, music journalism has been in the midst of a dead zone. Drake punted on the release of Certified Lover Boy to recuperate his knee, the Grammys are nowhere in sight, and the biggest news to cover was about Morgan Wallen, who got a streaming boost after TMZ exposed him for using a racial slur. So when Lil Uzi Vert emerged with a pink diamond lodged in his head in early February, it was only natural that the few remaining publications would seize upon this glass of water in the barren content desert. I wasn’t immune to this siren call, either. But for days, one question dominated my thoughts: If Lil Uzi Vert could rock a $24 million pink diamond in his forehead, then why couldn’t I?
Over the course of the next week, the answer became increasingly more complex. As I spoke with multiple experts, a jeweler, professional piercer, and even Lil B, my journey became a labyrinth. To make my dream come true I’d have to first find one of the rarest stones in the world, raise the capital to pay for it, find a skilled piercer to safely place it in my head, and ultimately summon the courage to convince my bosses at The Ringer and Spotify to pay for the ordeal.
Part 1: Where the Hell Can I Find a Pink Diamond?
For the uninitiated, there is a sort of cult surrounding the procurement of pink diamonds. According to the Gemological Institute of America, the most high-quality “vivid-colored stones” can cost $2 million per carat at major auctions. The average person can’t simply walk into a diamond store and ask for one. Securing a colored diamond takes a mixture of money, charm, and access.
Ninety percent of the world’s pink diamonds come from the Argyle Mine in Western Australia. But with the announcement that the mine is closing, the cost of natural pink diamonds is set to increase, making them even more difficult to obtain. And according to Maksud Agadjani, the founder and CEO of TraxNYC in the city’s Diamond District who starred as Yussi in the 2019 movie Uncut Gems, the “pink diamond game” is built on trust.
“Every effort has to be taken so that diamond isn’t stolen, hidden, swallowed, whatever it might be,” he said. “It’s a game. How can you get your hands on the diamond? And the farther you are away from the transaction, it’s the miner, then it’s the cutters and the polishers and you have to monitor that stone and go through this process until you have that finished good. The closer you are to that finished good on the food chain, the better.”
Uzi shared this sentiment in a conversation with Fat Joe last week on Instagram. “Don’t think it was just a ‘Come on, let’s go get his money,’” Uzi explained about purchasing his stone from famed jeweler Elliot Eliantte. “No, bro, they argued me down. It’s almost insane to the average person, or to any person.”
When I finally arrived at my main question—of whether I could obtain a pink diamond—Agadjani’s answer was deflating. “It’s over,” he said. “I mean, you can’t come in and want the pink diamond, forget it.”
Lil Uzi had contributed to an avalanche years in the making, one that’d make it hard, if not completely impossible, for your average staff writer to live out his dream. Pink diamonds were already highly sought after and now the viral moment would only make them harder to attain.
“The Holy Grail, the final end point of the jewelry business is pink, blue, green, red, and purple,” Agadjani said. “Super rare, highly colored stones where you have to know somebody to get it and understand to get these precious materials. And it’s a more limited, limited game of who is who. If somebody doesn’t like you, they won’t do business with you. And if you get cut out of the two, three people with pink diamonds in the Diamond District, then you’re not doing business and you can’t get pink diamonds. You could stand on your head, you could scream at the top of your lungs, there’s no pink diamonds for you and that’s that.”
Part 2: Weathering the Cultural Storm
Lil B gives great advice. On a recent afternoon, as he drove down Mission Street in San Francisco, the BasedGod delivered some much-needed council when I broached the topic of asking my superiors if there was room in the budget to lodge a pink stone in my forehead.
“Let your bosses, let your company, let Spotify know, and everybody else that you work with, ‘Hey, I want to express myself in this way. I would appreciate if there’s no judgment. I love the culture. I love journalism. I love music,’” he said over Zoom. “And you want to push the corporate world forward. Now you’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re corporate, but we’re also open. We’re also open-minded. So, let them know, ‘Hey, come support this.’”
Lil B may be responsible for the trend that’s seen Lil Uzi and Sauce Walka get diamonds pierced into their skin (even if Sauce Walka disagrees). Uzi tweeted a photo of the Bay Area rapper during the height of a debate over who was the first to get a diamond affixed to their forehead, which Lil B took as a sign of respect. “Lil Uzi Vert is extremely inspiring, Lil B says. “For him to tweet that picture of myself, of Lil B. That was just beautiful.”
Almost a decade ago, Lil B rocked a jeweled bindi in his “Tiny Pants Bitch” video. He was well-suited to walk me through the process of convincing an unwelcoming world to accept new ways of thinking. When I asked Lil B what inspired him to don a bindi in the “Tiny Pants Bitch” video, his answer was simple: “Just always pushing the style limits.”
If you spend any amount of time with Lil B, it’s inevitable that a tour of admiration will begin. At multiple points during our discussion, Lil B began to list a disparate group of people he’d like to shout-out: Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Big Sean, Zack Fox, and Thundercat. Lil B gives thanks the way most people use periods. But BasedGod was determined to keep the attention on Lil Uzi Vert any time he strayed too far from our current conversation.
“I got so much respect for Lil Uzi Vert. Major love to that gentleman, and that legend, one of the greatest musicians of all time, still blossoming and growing, he has so much to offer to the world,” Lil B said. “I’m just really excited. I mean, I never come out and say, ‘I did this. I did that.’ So it’s beautiful when real artists and real musicians feel it in their soul to say something because I have that same feeling when there’s people that inspire me or people that I love or people that I appreciate.”
Before our conversation ended, Lil B was adamant that I needed to take a risk and ask my bosses to let me get the diamond. To do that he evoked one of the central tenets of his way of life called, “based.” The word is both a quasi-religion and a mantra. “‘Based means being yourself,” Lil B said. “Having people accept you for who you are.” And who could argue that wanting to emulate Lil Uzi Vert in my professional life wasn’t the most based thing possible.
Part 3: How Do I Place a Diamond in My Skull?
My final challenge was understanding how I would put this hypothetical stone into my very real forehead. For weeks, the internet has questioned the viability of a diamond the size of Kevin Durant’s big toe staying anchored in a human’s head.
“We did everything with precious metals,” Eliantte told Rolling Stone when asked how the piercing was placed in Uzi’s forehead. “We engineered a specific mounting that clips and locks in place. There’s a whole mechanism involved, it’s not a standard piercing. A specific piece and part were both engineered with millimeter precision to get this put on him.”
To get a second opinion, I called Luis Garcia, the vice president and international liaison for the Association of Professional Piercers. Part of his job is to educate a variety of parties (the piercing community, health inspectors, and customers) on safe piercing practices. “What Uzi has, I am 95 percent sure, is what we would call a vertical bridge,” Garcia explained. “It’s a surface piercing vertically on the bridge of the nose—or in this case, above the bridge of the nose would be more accurate. It’s really no different than any other piercing. There’s an entrance, there’s an exit.”
“The body doesn’t want to heal something on a flat plane,” Garcia continued. “You’re piercing something that extends off of the body. The closer it gets to flat, the less your body wants to heal it. So we’re using the shape of the jewelry to trick your body into wanting to heal it. The simplest way I can put it as your body prefers to heal a wound and can expend less effort healing it if that wound is created perpendicular to the plate of the tissue.”
Garcia said that bleeding, especially after a forehead piercing, isn’t out of the ordinary. The photo Uzi posted of his fresh piercing oozing blood shows what you should expect when piercing a very vascular part of the body. Cleaning the wound would “vary from piercer to piercer, region to region.” Luis, who works at No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo and Piercing in Philadelphia, recommends cleaning the piercing with a “sterile wound wash saline solution” twice a day to combat a humid city like Philadelphia.
But the most gruesome—and likely most important—question I had for Luis centered around how hard it would be for someone to steal a massive diamond out of a human’s forehead.
“It wouldn’t be great if someone snatched it out of his head, depending on how that piece attaches, if that stone can detach itself, or if the whole thing gets ripped out,” Luis said.
Garcia pondered whether the piercing’s size would let it heal properly, and if the diamond is constantly moving that could mean it could easily be lost.
“It could be in his sleep. Maybe he feels an itch there, goes to scratch it, and yanks on it,” Garcia said. “As far as pulling it off of his head, I hate to say this, because it’s inviting nonsense, but it won’t take that much. If someone’s prepared, it wouldn’t take that much to just yank it right out. Hopefully, that was something that was thought about when they designed. I still don’t know. … But if that piece was meant to detach—not super easy, but easy enough that when cut, it would detach and not rip the bar out of his tissue, ideally—that would be hopefully what they thought about.”
Part 4: Presenting My Case
With all of this information in hand, I texted my guru and Ringer podcast lead, Tunde St. Matthew-Daniel. Of all my bosses, he seemed the one most willing to hear my case and provide me with the jewel I had been seeking for so long. This wasn’t the first improbable request I’d brought to him and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
“If I hypothetically wanted to get a diamond implanted in my forehead for the podcast would there be room in the budget?” I asked.
“How much are we talking?” TD responded.
I quickly changed the subject and demanded a pink diamond instead of white. Setting a price in the moment seemed like an unwise decision. Rightfully, TD didn’t bother to respond until hours later, and the longer I waited the more it seemed like my dream was falling further out of my grasp. When TD finally got back to me, the news wasn’t great.
“I mean if it’s an actual piercing that goes through skin layers of your body, I’m pretty sure that’s gonna be a no,” he texted. “If it’s just makeup or some sort of cosmetic or magnetic stud deal, maybe that’s possible.”
Getting a cosmetic or magnetic stud was worse than death in my eyes. Lil Uzi didn’t get ridiculed for weeks just so one of his acolytes could merely glue a plastic rock to his forehead. I’d rather let my forehead be naked forever than forgo my principles. The pink diamond would have to wait.