A ring that Tupac Shakur wore at his last public appearance sold today at a Sotheby’s New York hip-hop sale for $1.02 million (about Ksh144.9 million in the current exchange rate), more than triple its $300,000 (Ksh42.6 million) high estimate.
The hip-hop artiste commissioned the gold, ruby, and diamond crown ring in 1996, and wore it during the MTV Video Music Awards that year. On offer through Yaasmyn Fula, Shakur’s godmother, the ring was inscribed “Pac & Dada 1996” in reference to the artist’s engagement to Kidada Jones.
According to a Sotheby’s press release, the ring’s sale set a record for the most valuable hip-hop artifact ever sold at auction, and the only one to surpass $1 million.
The auction also included clothing, shoes, and a sculpture by KAWS, a factory-sealed copy of a vinyl record designed by Jean-Michel Basquiat, several artworks by Futura, six letters signed by Shakur, and an original demo tape for the debut single “Trapped.”
Shakur designed the gold ring over several months after signing a deal with Death Row Records and serving eight months in prison. According to Sotheby’s, Fula said Shakur’s design was modelled on the crowns of the medieval kings of Europe in “an act of self-coronation” to celebrate his survival of a tough year.
The ring’s diamond-encrusted gold shank is topped by a gold crown centered by a cabochon ruby flanked by two round diamonds, and five more rubies at the crown’s points.
In addition to rubies’ association with monarchs and wealth, Shakur’s royal narrative includes an affinity for Niccolò Machiavelli’s political manifesto The Prince, being named for the Peruvian indigenous revolutionary leader Túpac Amaru II, and Fula remembering the artist’s mother, Afeni, teaching him the mantra: “You are our black prince. You are my miracle, and you will make black people proud.”