Recently at Sotheby’s New York, an extraordinary piece of Hip Hop history, Tupac Shakur’s Gold, Ruby, and Diamond Crown Ring, personally Designed and Commissioned by the legendary rapper in 1996, achieved a staggering price of $1,016,000 at auction.
This remarkable sale marks the highest value ever attained for a Hip Hop artefact sold at auction, and notably, it becomes the first Hip Hop item to surpass the million-dollar mark. The intense bidding battle among enthusiasts led to the ring realizing more than three times its high estimate of $300,000.
A Symbol of Tupac’s Legacy: The Story Behind the Crown Ring
Worn by Tupac during his final public appearance at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the ring holds immense sentimental value. It was presented for auction by Yaasmyn Fula, who was not only the artist’s godmother but also one of his closest and most trusted advisors. The band of the ring bears an inscription, ‘Pac & Dada 1996,’ commemorating his engagement to Kidada Jones, his beloved sweetheart.
Tupac Shakur’s custom crown ring is an exceedingly rare and iconic piece that represents his unique aesthetic and plays a crucial role in Hip Hop history. In December 1995, Tupac approached Fula, his godmother, advisor, and supporter, to elevate his career to new heights after signing with Death Row Records and being released from incarceration.
During the first half of 1996, Tupac meticulously planned the expansion of his artistic empire. He founded his media group and community organization, Euphanasia, which was headed by Fula, and reinvented his image as he ventured into music production and screenwriting projects, while also dedicating himself to youth outreach programs for community care. To commemorate this significant phase in his life and career, Tupac decided to adorn himself with new bling.
The Design Process of the Crown Ring
Over several months, Tupac collaborated with Fula to design the unique ring, and she acted as the intermediary between the young superstar and the jewellers in New York. Tupac’s design was inspired by the crowns worn by medieval European kings, symbolizing an act of self-coronation, signifying his emergence as a Hip Hop king in his own right.
The artist’s name was a tribute to Túpac Amaru II, the Peruvian indigenous revolutionary leader, and he grew up with the mantra taught by his mother, Afeni Shakur, affirming his role as a black prince and a source of pride for the black community.
The inscription “Pac & Dada 1996” on the ring’s outer side holds deep significance. It celebrates Tupac’s engagement to Kidada Jones, a fairy-tale-like union that added to the allure of the ring. The ring was worn on Tupac’s left-hand ring finger during his final public appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 4, 1996.
The crown itself, set atop a diamond-encrusted gold band, features three magnificent jewels that make it a truly regal piece. At its centre lies a captivating cabochon ruby, flanked by two pavé-cut diamonds. The choice of the ruby as the centrepiece holds symbolic meaning, as rubies have long been associated with images of monarchy and prosperity in our cultural heritage.
Sotheby’s Celebrates 50 Years of Hip Hop
In celebration of Hip Hop’s remarkable 50-year journey, Sotheby’s presents its third dedicated Hip Hop sale, a tribute to the genre’s profound impact on art and culture over the last five decades. The auction showcases original artwork, historic studio equipment, sneakers, jackets, archival flyers, posters, rare artefacts, and more, shedding light on the influential artists and trailblazers who have shaped not only the musical genre but also the global phenomenon of Hip Hop culture, encompassing art, fashion, and much more.
The auction includes remarkable pieces related to influential figures such as Tupac Shakur, Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Fab 5 Freddy, Big Daddy Kane, Futura, Lee Quiñones, UNKLE & Mo’ Wax Founder James Lavelle, among many others. This outstanding sale is a collaborative effort with entertainment company Mass Appeal, which has been curating a series of events throughout the year as part of its Hip Hop 50 initiative.
In conclusion, Tupac Shakur’s Gold, Ruby, and Diamond Crown Ring not only embodies the iconic artist’s distinct style but also represents a pivotal moment in Hip Hop history. The auction at Sotheby’s has set a new standard for the value of Hip Hop artefacts, showcasing the lasting impact and cultural significance of this influential musical genre.