A cluster of rose-cut diamonds, approx. 1.20 cts. TW., surround central diamond, approx. 4.5 cts. in semi-closed or closed-back settings. Ca. 1860. 14k. Engraved No. 8 M. 4 1/2 K. Size 5 3/4. 5.6 dwt.
This rose-cut diamond was once among a set of diamond buttons (exact number unknown) owned by Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, overthrown and executed in 1867. Twelve of these buttons were acquired by Col. Edward H. R. Green, son of the brilliant and miserly financier Hetty Green, the richest woman of the Gilded Age. When this voracious collector of coins, stamps and jewelry died in 1936, his collections were sold privately and at auction. Hammer Galleries (founded by famed collector Dr. Armand Hammer) acquired jewelry from Green’s collection, including the set of 12 rose-cut diamonds, mounted as finger rings. These rings were advertised for sale in the New York Times on 24 October and 5 December 1943. It is our presumption that the diamond in lot 1037 is from one of these rings. Another of the diamond buttons, also adapted as a ring, sold at Sotheby’s Geneva, 14 May 2013, lot 574. Both the subject ring and the one sold by Sotheby’s are engraved with the weights of the center stone and inventory numbers.
Other gems owned by Emperor Maximilian I include the 39-carat “Emperor Maximilian” diamond which was acquired in 1919 from Maximilian’s widow, née Princess Charlotte of Belgium. It was set as a ring by Cartier and later owned by both Lawrence Graff and Imelda Marcos. It was last sold at Sotheby’s, New York on 22 April 2010. The 21-carat “Maximilian Emerald” was purchased by Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1928 (her first significant gemstone). Mounted as a ring by Cartier in 1949, it is now in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
The execution of the Emperor Maximilian is immortalized in Edouard Manet’s painting, shown here.