Maximilian's Diamonds

The present diamond is believed to be part of the important set of buttons, once belonging to Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, overthrown and executed in 1867, so infamously depicted in the painting by Edouard Manet.

Édouard Manet The Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, June 19, 1867. Collection of Kunsthalle Mannheim.

Originally thought to be a set of seventy-five buttons, Maximilian’s diamonds have been widely disbursed. Twelve can be traced to Col. Edward H.R. Green, the son of Hetty Green (the richest woman of the Gilded Age), who died in 1936. At the time of his death, his collection of diamond buttons, which had been mounted into rings, were purchased by Hammer Galleries, New York and advertised for sale in the New York Times on the 24th of October and 5th of December, 1943; each ring was listed with the carat weight of the center stone and each ring was engraved with an inventory number and its carat weight to the reverse.

Rago, Fine Jewelry, 9 June 2019, Lot 1037
Sotheby's, Geneva, Magnificent Jewels and Noble Jewels, 14 May 2013, Lot 574

The present Georgian rose-cut diamond button comes from a private Pittsburgh family. It is similar to two other button diamonds believed to be Maximilian’s that have appeared at auction and it is engraved No. 42 to the reverse, though there is no paper trail linking it to the sale at Hammer Galleries.