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Gold Grills shine

Custom-made cosmetic mouthpieces

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"I got my mouth lookin' something like a disco ball ... I got the diamonds and the ice all hand-set/I might cause a cold front if I take a deep breath." -- From Nelly's "Grillz"

Flava Flav, clown prince of the legendary rap crew Public Enemy, was an undeniable pioneer of not only hip-hop but also gold dentures ... um ... I mean grills. What Flava and others wrought with teeth-adorning jewelry has now entered the mainstream.

Also know as fronts, grills are removable custom-made cosmetic mouthpieces that can be attached to teeth. Grills are shaped out of gold or platinum and are often inlaid with colorful gems and even diamonds. To the hip-hop nation, or increasingly the nation of urban youths and suburban brats, grills are as much an image statement as hairstyle or clothes.

So where do you find grills/fronts in Charlotte? Cruise on over to Central Jewelry and Pawn on Central Avenue or their sister store Metal & Stone Jewelers at Eastland Mall. The mouthpieces can run from $200 on up to $8,000, said Dale Lynn, owner of both joints.

Lynn started advertising fronts a few months ago by placing a triangle standee on the street in front of his Central Avenue store. He says he's only done two or three grills at Central Jewelry, but the crew at Eastland Mall creates and delivers some six to seven grills per week.

Central Jewelry is located in the bohemian enclave of Plaza-Midwood. The hood, an oasis in this banking town, is rife with cafes, indie record stores, body piercing and tattoo joints and hip clothing stores. It's a perfect fit for a place that does grills.

Central Jewelry is nestled right in the middle of the action on the business strip of Plaza-Midwood while specialty shops such as Metal & Stone Jewelers are increasingly becoming more common at Eastland Mall as big box anchors pull out of there.

So what all is required in getting grills? Lynn explained the process, but it sounds a lot like what my son went through for his not-so-glamorous braces a couple of months back. He hates his braces, but I told him to think of them as his steel fronts.

Central Jewelry is a pawn shop, selling everything from tools to sunglasses and repairing watches, but Lynn wants to redesign the place and make it into a hip jewelry store. He's owned it for 14 years, although there has been a pawn shop in the location for over 20 years.

You wouldn't think a pawn shop can be a custom jewelry stop, but Lynn's place has been turning metals and gems into works of art for years.

Although the Central Avenue store hasn't attracted a steady clientele for grills yet, the Eastland Mall store was different. Lynn said the first week they were open, kids came in and asked, "Do you have grills?" Lynn had no idea what they were talking about and was about to send them to Sears next door to check out ole George Foreman's grills. But he caught on fast and now the store does brisk business in jaw jewelry.

Lynn said the grills make talking harder, but people get used to them.

Central Avenue Jewelry and Pawn Shop is located at 1516 Central Ave. For details, call 704-375-2341. The Metal & Stone Jewelers are located in Eastland Mall. Contact them at 704-566-8833.


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