Jewelry and Vertu, Russian Silver > A Russian diamond-set gold and silver Imperial presentation cigarette case for the betrothal of Nicholas and Alix of Hesse

A Russian diamond-set gold and silver Imperial presentation cigarette case, Friedrich Koechli, St. Petersburg, circa 1894. The exterior of the rounded rectangular case with red gold and silver reeded surface chased and polished to imitate basketwork, the corner of the hinged cover set with a diamond-set, yellow gold double-headed Imperial eagle, with silver pushpiece, the inside cover of the gilt interior finely engraved in German Caesarewitsch Nikolaus Alexandrowitsch / Coburg den 27.4.1894, struck with maker’s mark and 84 silver fineness standard, contained in the original red leather presentation case with silk and velvet lining. 

In April 1894 members of the the royal and imperial families of England, Russia, and several German states gathered in Coburg for the wedding of Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse, and the Rhine aged 25, the future Empress Alexandra’s brother, to Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, known as ‘Ducky’ among her extended family. aged 17, daughter of Prince Alfred. It was one of the largest gatherings of the nineteenth century, covering four generations and many European royalties.  The wedding took place on 19 April. Only a day later, Tsarevich Nicholas, heir to the Imperial Russian throne and Princess Alix of Hesse became engaged. The German-language inscription and date indicates that this was one of the many diplomatic and presentation gifts brought on this momentous trip. For a comparable diamond-set Imperial presented case awarded to Axel J. Andsten, see Christie’s London, 28 May 2012, lot 221.  Another very similar Imperial presentation case by Koechli is published in Fabergé-Cartier, Rivalen am Zarenhof, Munich: Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 2003, p. 318, no. 569 and Géza von Habsburg, et al, Fabergé: Imperial Craftsman and his World, London, 2000, p. 338, no. 918. 

Swiss-born Friedrich Christian Koechli (also spelled Köchli, Koechly, or Kekhli; 1837-1919) arrived in St. Petersburg at least by 1874. The firm eventually became Purveyors to the Imperial Court; Friedrich Koechli was named an Imperial Appraiser (otsenshchik), one of many jewelers, including Karl Fabergé, responsible for assessments of jeweled objects belonging to members of the Imperial family. The firm specialized in supplying jeweled Imperial presentation snuffboxes and cigarette cases, presentation jewelry, and gold and jeweled Bishop’s crosses.

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