Tupac’s custom ring sells for $1 million at auction, making hip-hop history 

A ring reportedly designed and worn by Tupac Shakur during his last public appearance set a new record as the most valuable hip-hop artifact sold at auction.

Hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur’s legacy lives on even 30 years after his death. 

This week, Sotheby’s New York announced that a custom jewelry item designed and previously belonging to the renowned “California Love” rapper was successfully sold for over $1 million. Deemed “the most valuable hip-hop artifact ever sold at auction,” a gold crown ring adorned with ruby and diamonds was sold for $1,016,000.

Tupac Shakur ring auction, Tupac Shakur 1996 ring, Tupac Shakur 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, Tupac Shakur jewelry auction
Tupac Shakur’s Self-Designed Gold, Ruby and Diamond Sovereign Crown Ring, worn during his last public appearance in 1996, is displayed at Sotheby’s on July 20, 2023, in New York City. The ring is estimated to be auctioned for between $200,000 to $300,000. Bidding was open until July 25. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

“This one-of-a-kind, custom ring was meticulously designed by Pac and is among the final products of his boundless creative energy — a unique artifact from a period of time that is a testament to his enduring influence on hip-hop,” said Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s Global Head of Science and Popular Culture, per People magazine

Valued at $300,000, the “California Love” rapper designed the ring in 1996 for the MTV Video Music Awards, which ended up being his last public appearance before his untimely death days later on Sept.13, 1996. The ring features revealing details about its owner, including the engraving “Pac & Dada, 1996,” reflecting his romantic relationship with then-fiancée Kidada Jones (daughter of Quincy Jones). According to the auction house, Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” a political manifesto Shakur read while incarcerated, inspired the ring’s design. 

Similarly, the ring’s medieval crown design was reportedly in honor of a mantra the rapper’s mother, former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, instilled in him growing up: “You are our Black prince. You are my miracle, and you will make Black people proud.”

Tupac’s possessions have graced the auction block before, with one notable item being his breakup letter to former love interest Madonna, written in 1995. In 2018, the auction spotlight shone on Tupac’s letter to the “Vogue” singer, despite her efforts to stop the sale. The letter, which began bidding at $100,000, reportedly read: 

“For you to be seen with a Black man wouldn’t in any way jeopardize your career; if anything, it would make you seem that much more open and exciting. But for me, at least in my previous perception, I felt due to my ‘image,’ I would be letting down half of the people who made me what I thought I was,” Shakur wrote, according to People magazine. 

Ultimately, society continues to honor and celebrate Shakur’s life. Earlier this year, Hulu released the docuseries “Dear Mama,” highlighting the rapper and his mother’s life stories. Similarly, Shakur received a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

“As the proud sister of Tupac Amaru Shakur, the daughter of Mutulu and Afeni Shakur, it fills my heart with honor to stand here today representing the Shakur family,” said Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur at the ceremony, per People magazine. “Before anyone recognized his name, he knew he had the dream to have a star here on the Walk of Fame […]the work and the passion that he has put into making his dreams come true. His heavenly star will shine a little brighter today.” 

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