Need Bling for Your Hooptie? $250,000 set of wheels pack on 63,000 carats - almost 28 pounds - of cubic zirconia.


Elite Member
Apr 14, 2001
If Hubcaps Just Don't Do It for You


By BRENDAN I. KOERNER, The New York Times

A $250,000 set of car wheels decked out in 63,000 carats - almost 28 pounds - of cubic zirconia certainly qualifies as ostentatious, even by the flamboyant standards of the $3.3 billion custom-wheels industry. So it's a bit surprising to hear Frank Hodges, founder of the Lexani Wheel Corporation of Yorba Linda, Calif., describe his company's top-of-the-line product with an adjective usually applied to red-state congressmen.

"They have a conservative edge," Mr. Hodges said of the jewel-encrusted wheels sold under his company's Asanti brand. "They're for a more conservative person, with more high-end cars." He added that the stone-laden Asantis feature a "conservative five-spoke" design, rather than the swirls and lightning bolts favored by less traditional automotive enthusiasts.

The new wheels were actually designed especially for the Rolls-Royce Phantom, which has a sticker price of $332,750. In 2003, Lexani released its Firestar and Enfinity models, which can be customized with a small number of cubic zirconia stones. The response was strong enough, Mr. Hodges said, that the company wondered whether it could completely bejewel one of its Asanti wheels. Unlike the standard Lexanis, which are just one-piece hunks of forged aluminum, Asanti wheels consist of multiple pieces - an ornate center, an outer tube and a chrome lip - that must be assembled by hand.

"Our goal was to make wheels get to the level where they were just ridiculously accessorized," Mr. Hodges said. Lexani designed the jewel wheel prototype for the Phantom in part because the car is a favorite among hip-hop artists, a key consumer demographic for ornate car parts, and in part because the Phantom accommodates unusually large 24-inch wheels.

Lexani at first considered using diamonds, but calculated that such a design choice would push the retail price above $2 million - too expensive for even such moneyed Lexani customers as the rapper Rakim and the Portland Trail Blazers forward Darius Miles. Glass and crystal were tested, too, but did not provide the requisite sparkle. The designers eventually settled on cubic zirconia, a longtime staple of budget jewelry.

Attaching the stones to the five-spoke wheels was an adhesive challenge. Lexani tried a variety of space-age glues and cements, all of which detracted from the sparkle. A jeweler was finally enlisted to stud the wheels with ring mounts, enough to accommodate 21 princess-cut stones per spoke. Each cubic zirconia was screwed into place from the back of the wheel; as the nut was tightened, tiny grips latched onto the edges of the individual stones.

The prototypes were then mounted on a vehicle and put through a series of cornering and wear tests, just like Lexani products costing mere four-figure sums. They survived in fine shape, although Mr. Hodges does not recommend any serious off-road driving. "Yeah, you could go through mud and hit it and crash it and, yeah, it would probably break," he said. "But when you spend that kind of money, you're going to take care of it."

SO far, only one undisclosed customer has bought the $250,000 wheels. That's no great surprise to Lexani, however, which views the product more as an advertising gimmick than a potential top seller. Mr. Hodges said that the brand's increased visibility, largely due to the hype surrounding the bejeweled Asantis, had helped sales of the company's Skin Series wheels, which are wrapped in alligator and ostrich pelts.

Pictures of the ultra-expensive wheels were also a nice addition to Lexani magazine, the company's "automotive lifestyles" publication. The current issue features the Brooklyn-born rapper Fabolous on the cover, posing in front of a black Bentley GT. The car is pretty splashy, though it's not outfitted with the quarter-million-dollar Asantis. Maybe Fabolous just isn't the conservative type.



Apr 10, 2001
"They have a conservative edge," Mr. Hodges said of the jewel-encrusted wheels sold under his company's Asanti brand. "They're for a more conservative person, with more high-end cars."


Diamond Member
Dec 31, 2000

Now I wonder how long it'll be before someone commisions them to make one out of diamonds.

Even with cubic zirconia someone is bound to steal those rims off a vehicle if they see them.

Hayabusa Rider

Admin Emeritus & Elite Member
Jan 26, 2000
Like I said, I think they are WMDs in disguise and should be blown up on sight.

Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.