Tupac Shakur’s legacy lives on, and recently, one of his self-designed treasures made headlines at a Sotheby’s auction. The ring worn by the late rapper, featuring gold, ruby, and diamond, fetched a remarkable price of over $1 million, making history as the most valuable hip-hop artifact sold in an auction.
The ring holds significant sentimental value as it was not only designed by Shakur himself but also worn during his final public appearance at the 1996 Video Music Awards (VMAs). Inscribed with the words “Pac & Dada 1996,” the ring commemorates his engagement to Kidada Jones, an actress, and model, who is the daughter of renowned American record producer Quincy Jones. The exquisite diamond-encrusted gold band features a gold circlet adorned with a cabochon ruby and two pavé-cut diamonds, adding to its allure.
The design process for the ring was no ordinary task. After signing with Death Row Records following a prison sentence during which he served eight months, Shakur collaborated with New York jewelers over several months to create this unique piece. Shakur’s godmother, Yaasmyn Fula, who brought the ring to auction, revealed that it was modeled after the crowns worn by medieval European kings, symbolizing an act of self-coronation. The ring became a powerful symbol of Shakur’s triumph over challenging times in his life.
The auction, centered around hip-hop-themed artifacts, showcased more than 100 items, ranging from studio equipment to handwritten lyrics, private letters, and original artwork, representing various eras of hip-hop history.
Among the notable items sold was an early work by American artist KAWS, from his debut London exhibition. The wooden box, painted in KAWS’ iconic cartoonish style, was once owned by James Lavelle, the founder of the Mo’Wax label and production alias UNKLE. It found a new home at the auction for $76,200, staying within the estimated price range.
The event also featured RZA’s handwritten notes for Wu-Tang Clan’s renowned album “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers),” providing a glimpse into the creative process of this influential hip-hop group. Additionally, original artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz for EPMD’s first Def Jam release, “Business as Usual,” added to the diverse collection of hip-hop memorabilia.
Tupac Shakur’s ring stood out not only for its exquisite craftsmanship and historical significance but also for the profound personal story it carried. The ring’s depiction of Shakur expressing love for another person showcased a more intimate side of the iconic artist, reminding fans and admirers of his humanity and emotions beyond his public persona.
As the auction concluded, it became evident that the hip-hop community’s impact on art, culture, and society is immeasurable, and artifacts like Tupac Shakur’s self-designed ring serve as enduring reminders of the genre’s lasting influence on the world.