Tupac Shakur's Crown Ring Soars to $1 Million at Sotheby's

Wednesday, July 26, 2023
Tupac Shakur's Crown Ring Soars to $1 Million at Sotheby's

Tupac Shakur’s Gold, Ruby, and Diamond Crown Ring, Designed and Commissioned by Tupac Shakur in 1996 soared to $1,016,000, marking the most valuable Hip Hop artifact ever sold at auction*, and the only Hip Hop artifact to surpass $1 million. The ring was sold following a determined battle between bidders and achieved more than triple its $300,000 high estimate.

The artist’s custom crown ring is an exceedingly rare piece of Tupac’s signature aesthetic and a slice of Hip Hop history. In December 1995, Fula – at once Tupac’s godmother, advisor, “auntie,” money manager, caretaker, and lifelong supporter – received a call from her beloved godson asking if she was ready to take his career to the next level. Leaving behind a period of incarceration and having signed the now notorious deal with Death Row Records, Tupac spent the first half of 1996 strategizing the expansion of his artistic empire and launching his media group and community organization Euphanasia – headed by Fula – and retooling his image as he transitioned into an executive role in music, strategized screenwriting projects, and rededicated himself to community care through youth outreach programs. To commemorate this momentous arrival into a new stage of life and illustrious career, Tupac got new bling.

Over the course of a few months, Tupac designed the present ring – with Fula liaising between the young superstar and jewelers in New York, communicating Tupac’s specifications and ensuring they were followed to perfection. Reflecting his recent affinity for Niccolo Machiavelli’s political manifesto The Prince(Tupac would start going by “Makaveli” after reading The Prince while incarcerated), Tupac modeled his design after the crowns of the medieval kings of Europe in “an act of self-coronation,” according to Fula, a celebration of survival through a tumultuous year in an oft tumultuous life. A Hip Hop king of his own making, the artist was named for the Peruvian indigenous revolutionary leader Túpac Amaru II. Reflecting on his early childhood, Fula remembers Tupac’s mother Afeni teaching him the following mantra: “You are our black prince. You are my miracle, and you will make black people proud.”

Included on the ring is an inscription atypically engraved on the outer, palm-facing side of the band reading “Pac & Dada 1996,” referencing his recent fairy-tale engagement to sweetheart Kidada Jones. Worn on Tupac’s left hand ring finger, the present ring was in this position at the rapper’s last public appearance on September 4, 1996 at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Sitting atop a diamond-encrusted gold band is the “crown” itself: a gold circlet studded with the three largest jewels in the entire piece—a central cabochon ruby, flanked by two pavé-cut diamonds. Tupac’s selection of the ruby as the principal stone in his crown is a continuation of this royal narrative, as rubies have long been symbolically tied to the imagery of monarchy and wealth in our cultural imagination.

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Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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