Tupac Shakur’s majestic ruby and diamond “crown” ring fetched $1.02 million at Sotheby’s New York last week, earning it the distinction as the most valuable hip-hop artifact ever sold at auction.
The hammer price was more than three times the presale high estimate of $300,000, and the impressive result spawned headlines across the media. The new owner remained a mystery — for two days.
On Thursday night, July 27, five-time Grammy winner Drake posted an Instagram Story showing him flashing the distinctive “crown” ring on his index finger. The next day, Sotheby’s confirmed that Drake was, indeed, the winning bidder.
“We’re thrilled that this exceptional piece has entered a new chapter in the hands of another legendary artist,” commented Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture.
Designed and commissioned by Shakur, the crown ring led Sotheby’s “Hip Hop” auction, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop with an event dedicated to jewelry, art, fashion, sneakers, photography and more.
In 1996, only months before he passed away in a drive-by shooting, Shakur had initiated the ring project as an act of self-coronation, according to Sotheby’s. He was retooling his image, strategizing screenwriting projects and refocusing his support for community outreach programs.
Sotheby’s wrote, “By 1996, Tupac not only felt ready to take on the world; he was prepared to conquer it. The aesthetic rules of Hip Hop Culture are clear; there is only one way to commemorate your arrival into a new phase of life — you get a new piece of bling.”
Shakur entrusted the jewelry project to family friend and mentor Yaasmyn Fula, who became the liaison between the artist and jewelers in New York City. Shakur modeled his design after the crowns of the medieval kings of Europe.
Boasting 10 carats of cabochon rubies and 5 carats of diamonds set in 14-karat gold, the ring was tooled and re-tooled to meet the artist’s meticulous specifications.
“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,” Sotheby’s noted.
The size 8 ring is inscribed “Pac & Dada, 1996” on the palm-facing side of the band — a nod to his engagement to Kidada Jones, whose dad was composer Quincy Jones.
Shakur wore the piece on his left-hand ring finger during his final public appearance at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards on September 4, 1996, only nine days before his death.
Two months ago, Shakur was honored posthumously with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.