UNIKT KEJSERLIGT RYSKT CHIFFER FÖR HOVFRÖKEN
UNIQUE MAID OF HONOUR CIPHER OF THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL COURT
silver on 14 K gold (56 zolotnik) set with old brilliant and rose cut diamonds approximately 5.5 cts, shaped into a cipher of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Crafted in 1913 by the jeweller Carl Blank, St. Petersburg. Delivered June 6th in the same year, price 620 roubels. Original fitted presentation case from the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty in red morocco with the Imperial crown printed in gold. Numbered 399. Size 7.5 × 4.5 cms.
Provenance: Maid of Honour Baroness Maria ”Marousia” Langhoff (1893–1975), daughter of baron August Langhoff (1856–1929) Minister State Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg. Thence by descent.
MARIA ‘MAROUISIA’ LANGHOFF
Baroness Maria ‘Marouisia’ Langhoff was appointed maid of honour on 22 July, 1913, the name day of dowager empress Maria Feodorovna. The nineteen year old daughter of the general of the infantry, baron August Langhoff in St. Petersburg, expresses her delight with her appointment in a letter to a friend:
That I was appointed maid of honour on the Empress’s name day made me extremely happy. Now it will be necessary for me to spend a few months per year in St. Petersburg, particularly as I once again have to be presented to all the Grand Duchesses and the Empresses. The cipher arrived already on Tuesday. It is exquisite with sparkling brilliants and is quite large in size.
The insignia of a maid of honour consisted of the empress’s initial in diamonds surmounted with the imperial crown. The cipher was worn on the left shoulder suspended from the light blue ribbon of the Order of Saint Andrew. The design was revised at the beginning of each reign. If a dowager empress was still active at court, the cipher was designed with two initials. Thus the last reign saw an initial M for the Dowager Empress Maria and an
A for Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas II.
The ciphers were made by the leading jewellers of each reign. During the last reigns the makers were preeminently the court jewellers Bolin, Butz and Hahn. In the final years, beginning around 1910, Carl Blank, the former head workmaster of Hahn, produced the majority of the ciphers as well as other important commissions for the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty.
There are detailed accounts on the insignia, their makers, prices and recipients. The prices during the period of 1890–1916 varied between 500 and 900 roubles. The price of Baroness Langhoff’s cipher was 620 roubles. It is impossible to give the precise present-day equivalent for rouble prices of imperial Russia. It can, however, be noted that the annual wages of a carpenter was between 300 and 360 roubles and the annual salary of a general in active service was some 10 000 roubles.
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