This star sapphire brooch is by a brilliant St. Petersburg jeweler named Sophia Schwan.
Sophia Ivanovna (active 1898–1917) was a workmaster of the Court jeweler Bolin of Russia. Bolin sold the finest jewels in the Russian empire in the 19th century and was the most expensive jeweler in the land.
Sophia was the widow of Robert Schwan, a goldsmith who worked exclusively for Bolin. Robert’s most memorable creation was a sumptuous emerald and diamond necklace for Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and her sister Elisabeth Fedorovna, which had formed part of the Russian Crown Jewels (now lost). After his death, Sophia took over his workshop and used her own initials as hallmarks.
The brooch appears in our book Beyond Fabergé, and I always talk about it in lectures on Bolin
I love the color of the blue and the way the star is not in the middle part but towards the side despite what my gemological training says (stars should be in the middle). In this case the gem cutter or Sophia herself may have decided the star looks better in an oval stone on the side. Would the gemologists reading this agree? I think it works! Have a look at that gorgeous cushion cut diamond and the mounts in the form of petals.
Much more about Bolin, a whole chapter in Beyond Fabergé a signed copy available here.
Photo Courtesy of Court Jewellers, W. A. Bolin.