Big jewelry has always been an identifying mark of hip-hop culture, and don't expect it change anytime soon. Yet, with or with out hip-hop, believe me brothas would still be rocking their jewel bedazzled watches, gold chains, and medallions with the same unapologetic fervor. Many poor black people have always searched for solace in material things, be it jewelry, clothes, cars, or whatever could bring some temporary measure of dignity and self respect, especially in the face of poverty and racism. Eventually it just became something synonymous with our lifestyle.
Before rappers, it was bootleggers, number runners, pimps and drug dealers. Anybody who could get their hands on some real paper were trying to floss and look good- anything to feel better about themselves, even if it came at great cost. But it wasn't only poor blacks from the inner cities, it also included jazz musicians, preachers with their big Cadillacs, and even black professionals who sought what dignity they could buy through the social acceptance of elite universities, private clubs, and societies.
Nonetheless, all these things have served as emblems of prestige and prosperity for black people during times when many of our due liberties seemed to still eluded us. Now for better or worse it's just an everyday part of black culture, thus hip-hop culture. And in the spirit of competition, it's has always been a constant battle to one up the next cat.