A majestic ruby and diamond "crown" ring designed and commissioned by Tupac Shakur in 1996 will lead Sotheby's upcoming "Hip Hop" auction in New York City. The ring, which reflected the artist's yearning for a fresh start both personally and professionally, carries a presale estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
Considered one of the most influential and successful rappers of all time with more than 75 million records sold, Shakur's life came to a tragic end on September 13, 1996, when the 25-year-old was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
Only months before, he had commissioned a special ring as an act of self-coronation, according to Sotheby's. He was entering a new phase of his career after a period of incarceration, and had just signed a three-album $3.5 million record deal. 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.
The finished design boasts 10 carats of cabochon rubies and 5 carats of diamonds set in 14-karat gold. According to Fula, the piece was tooled and re-tooled according to the artist's meticulous specifications until perfect.
Sitting atop a diamond-encrusted 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 diamonds.
Atop this circlet sits 16 rays (or spikes) of descending heights, with the tallest five rays topped with round bezel-set rubies. Inside of the circlet band is a six-pronged "arch" capped with a cabochon ruby "ball."
“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 recent engagement to Kidada Jones, whose dad was composer Quincy Jones.
He reportedly 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.
Sotheby's is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop with an auction dedicated to jewelry, art, fashion, sneakers, photography and more. The majority of the auction items have been consigned directly by the people who created the culture.
The bidding opens on July 18 and ends on July 25.
Credits: Images courtesy of Sotheby's.