A gold, ruby and diamond crown ring worn by rap legend Tupac Shakur during his last public appearance sold for $1 million at auction in New York Tuesday. The winning bid was well above Sotheby's pre-sale estimate of between $200,000 and $300,000 and becomes the most valuable hip-hop artifact ever sold, the auction house said.
The New York-born rapper wore the ring during his final public appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 4, 1996. He was shot dead by an unidentified assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas just days later on September 13. He was 25.
Shakur, whose hits included "California Love," designed the ring over the course of a few months, Sotheby's said. He did so through his godmother Yaasmyn Fula, who put the ring up for sale.
Shakur was influenced by 16th century Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli's political manifesto "The Prince" which he read while in prison on sex abuse charges. He modeled the design on the crowns of the medieval kings of Europe, Sotheby's added.
The ring is engraved "Pac & Dada 1996," a reference to his girlfriend Kidada Jones. A gold circulet studded with a central cabochon ruby flanked by two pave-cut diamonds sits atop a diamond-encrusted gold band.
The sale was part of a dedicated hip-hop auction to mark 50 years of the genre which falls in August this year. Shakur is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, selling 75 million records. He was a central figure in the Los Angeles-based West Coast hip-hop scene, which feuded with rival East Coast rappers in New York.
His killers have never been caught and theories about who was responsible have long abounded. Shakur's murder was followed six months later by the gunning down of East Coast rapper Christopher "The Notorious BIG" Wallace. Many believe they were slain as part of a rivalry between their music labels, LA-based Death Row and New York's Bad Boy Entertainment.
But some music historians say the coastal rift was exaggerated for commercial reasons. Last week, Las Vegas police searched a home as part of their investigation into the murder of Shakur.