By Michelle Graff

I made another trip to Christie's on Friday, this time to get a first-hand look at two historic gems: The Emperor Maximilian Diamond and the Catherine the Great Brooch.
I enjoyed my afternoon just as much as I did my last trip to Christie’s, when I got a look at the unbelievable 32.01-carat Annenberg Diamond, which later sold for $7.7 million, well surpassing estimates.
Like so many of the gems that end up on an auction block, the 39.55-carat Emperor diamond has an intriguing past. Emperor Maximilian Diamond
The stone, according to a history provided by Christie’s, is one of two large diamonds the Archduke Maximilian acquired in Brazil in 1860, before he was named Emperor of Mexico at the urging of Napoleon III.
In 1866, Napoleon III, under pressure from the United States, withdrew his support of Maximilian, effectively abandoning the leader in Mexico.
He was later captured, court-martialed and sent before a firing squad and, as legend has it, he was wearing the Emperor diamond in a pouch around his neck when he executed.
The diamond made its way back across the Atlantic to his wife, Princess Charlotte of Belgium, who sold the stone.
For about 30 years, the diamond’s whereabouts remained unknown, not resurfacing until 1919, when a Chicago gem dealer purchased the stone and held on to it until 1946.
The cushion-shaped Emperor diamond was auctioned at Christie’s in July 1982, where Laurence Graff (surprise, surprise) bought it for $726,000.
In 1983, Graff sold the stone along with two other important diamonds to none other than shoe-queen Imelda Marcos, the widow of former Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos.
Subsequent private transactions followed, until the stone ended up in the hands of its undisclosed current owner.
Friday at Christie’s was the first time the Emperor diamond had been on display to the public since 1982.
As the staff at Christie’s told reporters, the stone is believed to be a Golconda diamond (scroll down for a Christie’s explainer on Golconda diamonds)  — but that cannot be proven conclusively. Golcondas are absolutely exquisite stones, though, and would be my stone of choice if money were no object. 
While many of the stones that end up on the auction block at places like Christie’s and Sotheby’s are top-notch Ds or Es, the Emperor diamond is actually only an I-color stone.
The stone’s strong blue fluorescence actually makes it look a few color grades better and, besides, there’s no denying this is one stone with a rich history.
The Emperor Maximilian Diamond, along with the Catherine the Great Brooch, will be two of the jewels up on the auction block on Thursday, as Christie’s New York holds its first major jewelry sale of the year.
Both are estimated to fetch between $1 million and $1.5 million.

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