Juan Soto stepped to the plate in the first inning of a game July 8 in Atlanta with a sparkly new accessory dangling from his neck — a diamond pendant in the shape of himself doing his signature Soto shuffle. Soto’s bling shuffled along with him as he drew a six-pitch walk against the Braves’ Charlie Morton. It was tucked into his Nationals jersey for his next plate appearance, a two-run homer in the third inning that extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Soto had picked up the pendant from Icebox Diamonds & Watches a few hours earlier. The jewelry store, located about 20 minutes from Truist Park, is a popular destination for hip-hop artists, athletes and other celebrities. Business has been booming since 2009, when rapper T-Pain commissioned Icebox to make him a $400,000, 10-pound diamond necklace that read, appropriately, “Big A-- Chain” in capital letters.
Development of Soto’s slightly more modest design began in March, said Icebox’s Skylar Langfeldt, who has been with the company for almost nine years.
“I think it wasn’t even a question that we were going to do a shuffle piece,” Langfeldt said in a phone interview. “From there, it was just deciding the details.”
In the early stages of the design process, Icebox sent Soto a 3D-printed wax version of the pendant to give him an idea of the proposed shape and size. Icebox representatives and Soto went back and forth over the next couple of months until the design was finalized. (For what it’s worth, there’s no curly W or “Nationals” script in the finished product, so it won’t require an update if Soto, who recently turned down a 15-year, $440 million offer from Washington, is traded. Not that he couldn’t afford it.)
“Originally we had it completely iced out for him,” said Langfeldt, who declined to reveal the price of Soto’s necklace. “Then we started changing the face design. We wanted to pay homage to his World Series win, so that’s why we did the yellow gold accents on his bat and shin guard.”
The piece took about a month to manufacture. Different people in Icebox’s shop were responsible for melting the metal, polishing it and then setting the stones. The pendant is made of 14-karat white gold, with more than four carats of diamonds, and hangs from a 4-millimeter white gold rope chain. The back is laser engraved with Soto’s No. 22 and “WS 2019” to commemorate the Nationals’ World Series title.
Icebox has a huge social media presence, including more than 6.9 million followers on TikTok. On YouTube, the company has posted videos since 2018 of celebrities shopping at its store. (A 12-minute video of rapper Lil Baby in the showroom this year has more than 2.5 million views.) Cameras were rolling when Soto and Nationals teammate Andres Machado dropped in. Soto received a tour, took a selfie with a fan and looked at Rolex watches and a rose gold Miami Cuban chain during his visit. In addition to his shuffle necklace, he went home with a jewelry travel case.
Langfeldt said the Nationals star was most impressed with the detail in the cleats, made up of tiny diamonds, on the pendant.
“We asked him if he was going to wear it on the field,” Langfeldt said. “He said no, because he was worried about diamonds falling out or something happening to it. We told him that we make our pieces to be worn for life, and if anything were to ever happen to it, we would take care of it.”
Soto told MLB.com that teammate Ehire Adrianza helped convince him to wear the necklace on the field and “let people see what I like.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Nationals Manager Dave Martinez said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t wear it. But it’s pretty cool.”
Soto, who will participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium, has five home runs in nine games since debuting his shuffle pendant. It was dangling outside his jersey during Thursday’s loss to the Braves, in which he collected another two hits.
“It’s kind of been a good-luck charm,” Langfeldt said. “I feel like since he’s gotten it he’s been hitting home runs.”