Fit For an Emperor

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On June 9, Rago Auctions will offer for sale a rose-cut diamond button ring, the central diamond of which once belonged to the last Emperor of Mexico, Maximilian I.

This rose-cut diamond was among a set of diamond buttons (the exact number of which is unknown) owned by Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, who was installed as the ruler of Mexico by Napoleon III in 1864 only to be overthrown and executed three years later in 1867.

Édouard Manet's oil on canvas "The Execution of Emperor Maximilian"
Pictured: Édouard Manet’s oil on canvas “The Execution of Emperor Maximilian”

Twelve of these buttons were later 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 Maximilian’s set of 12 rose-cut diamonds, mounted as finger rings. These rings were advertised for sale in the New York Times on October 24 and December 5, 1943.

It is Rago’s presumption that the diamond presented in lot 1037 of their June 9 Fine Jewelry Auctionis from one of these rings. Another of the diamond buttons, also adapted as a ring, sold at Christie’s Geneva on May 14, 2013 as lot 574. Both the subject ring and the one sold by Christie’s are engraved with the weights of the center stones and inventory numbers.

This exceptional and storied piece will be offered during Rago’s Fine Jewelry Auction on Sunday, June 9, which is preceded by Rago’s Unreserved Jewelry Auction on Friday, June 7.

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