The Imperial Russian Court, especially during the reign of Nicholas II, was renowned among European courts for the lavish and expensive gifts to foreign dignitaries visiting Russia. The responsibility of purchasing and allocating these gifts, under the strict supervision of the Emperor, was given to the Imperial Cabinet, which kept detailed ledgers.
Presentation snuff-boxes, whether with the Emperor's miniature portrait or Imperial Cypher, were all administered by the Cameral Office of the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty. Those with the cypher of the Emperor, with very few exceptions, were awarded to Russians in state service holding ranks from class three to five on the Table of Ranks. As with the boxes bearing the sovereign's portrait, they were either awarded to commemorate an anniversary in the recipient's career or in gratitude for a special service rendered. They were also included among the gifts to ambassadors ending their mission, or as a token commemorating a special Russian event or celebration. During the reign of Nicholas II, some 280 Russian subjects and 90 foreign dignitaries received the gift of an Imperial presentation snuff-box with the Emperor's jewelled cypher. They were made by the foremost jewellers of St. Petersburg, primarily by the court suppliers, Fabergé, Hahn, Bolin and Köchli. (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, Russian Imperial Award System 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, p. 179.)
Based on the research of Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, 21 snuff-boxes with the Sovereign's cypher were produced by the firm of Bolin.
An Imperial snuff-box of diamonds and nephrite is listed on the Bolin invoice to the Imperial Cabinet, of 20th April 1909, for 1600 roubles, in the Imperial Cabinet archives.
We are grateful to Valentin Skurlov for the above information.