Today marks the 95th Anniversary of the death of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna, who died on this day in 1927! The Princess of Saxe-Altenburg had married Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia and had nine children, though the First World War and the Russian Revolution meant that she lost much of her family before making a harrowing escape into exile. As a minor member of the Romanov Family, the Grand Duchess did not possess a spectacular jewellery collection like other family members, but that does not make her Bolin Aquamarine Brooch any less splendid!
Made by Goldsmith Sophia Ivanovna Schwan for the Russian Court Jeweller Bolin between 1899 and 1908, the large 100 carat aquamarine in the shape of a heat is surrounded by an openwork and chased decoration of foliage set with diamonds of old sizes, topped with a cushion diamond weighing about 1.5 carats.
On March 31, 1909, Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia bought the “heart-shaped pendant with aquamarine and diamonds (7,350 rubles)” from Bolin as a Silver Anniversary gift for Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna two weeks later. The Grand Duchess was pictured wearing her new Brooch in a portrait taken soon afterwards. The Grand Duchess lost her husband, four of her sons and her son-in-law during the First World War and the Revolution, though she managed to keep her jewels in exile, first in Sweden, and then in Belgium and later in her in native Altenburg, where she passed away on this day in 1927.
The Bolin Aquamarine Brooch was sold by either Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna or one of her descendants at some point between between the 1920s and the 1990s, by when it was in the collection of Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, who notably wore the Brooch for numerous occasions, including a charity event for people suffering from AIDS in Cannes.
In December 2020, the Bolin Aquamarine Brooch appeared at Auction in a sale of Jewels from the Collection of Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild at Pierre Bergé & Associés in Paris, where it sold for €156 000, far above the estimate of €30 000 – €40 000. The Romanov provenance was not known until the wonderful Russian Treasure, published their excellent research which tied the Brooch to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mavrikievna.