Do you own any Russian jewelry? If so, you are very lucky. Russian jewelry is considered the apex of style and workmanship, especially that of the Edwardian era.
Russian jewelry began as being pretty great. If you read about Catherine (the Great) and many others, you may be surprised at what Francophiles they were. The Russian court imported French craftsmen to make them beautiful artifacts. Catherine was herself a great friend of Voltaire.
On occasion it happens that the pupil outshines the master. To begin with, Russian jewelers emulated French jewelry. Ultimately, they outshone them. At least one man and his workmen did: Peter Carl Faberge.
Interestingly, Faberge’s family was originally Swiss and not French. Still, the Swiss were famous for their enameling, so we can still make the connection. Faberge was not responsible for every item signed with his name. True, he had huge workshops, but he also lent his name to many other famous makers, well known in their own rights. The name Faberge can be found not only on jewelry, but on many related objects of vertu, such as picture frames, letter openers, fans and the famous Faberge eggs.
Faberge is considered the ultimate Edwardian/Belle Epoque jeweler and his work representative of the period - exquisite workmanship, he often used rose-cut and not brilliant cut diamonds. Faberge also used a variety of colorful semi-precious gems for a gently colorful effect. Delicacy and naturalism.
The standard of Russian workmanship during the late 19th and early 20th century was unrivalled, even by the French, whom they copied in many ways. Much of the merchandise was sold to the Russian Imperial Family. Sadly, after the revolution of 1918, a lot of it was melted and a lot of it was sold off with no comprehension of its true value. Fortunately, some members of the aristocracy escaped Russia and brought their jewels with them to the West, where they have trickled onto the market over the years.
Periodically, an item with Russian royal provenance will come up for sale in one of the big auction houses. This always causes tremendous interest. Just imagine wearing a ring worn by the Czar’s cousin or perhaps even the previous Czar himself! Naturally, these items sell for telephone numbers, but the rest of us, normal people can look and be amazed.
Not all Russian jewelry was made by Faberge. We have the good fortune to sometimes find it and sometimes we are lucky enough to buy it. It will usually command a somewhat higher price than its counterpart from other origins.
One of the advantages of most Russian jewelry is that it was hallmarked. Most Russian jewelry tells us what city it was made in, who the maker was and what time period it was made. In the provinces (far from Moscow and St. Petersburg), jewelry was not always signed. Sometimes, the classic Russian findings give away the origin.
If you are interested in Russian jewelry, look out for some distinctive Russian gemstones. Amethysts from Siberia are a distinctive deep purple – highly sought after and certainly a cut above amethysts from other sources; demantoid garnets were mined in Russia during the 1890’s. For that reason, we often find them in jewelry of this period. Since the mine has long ago dried up, these gems are very highly sought after. They have a wonderful, distinctive yellow-green color that suits everyone and also offsets other colors beautifully.
Some examples of Imperial Russian jewelry that are not often seen today:
Kokoshniks: these were cloth head-dresses with gems sewn onto them, much like tiaras or crowns, but with a distinct Russian form.
Like wealthy people elsewhere, Russian royalty sewed jewels directly onto their clothes – this was mainly for formal occasions like balls or evening attire.
Many necklaces were worn at once: there would be short collars (colliers), rivieres of increasing lengths – princess length strands just below the nape and then very long, opera length strands of gems and pearls below those. Multiples of every sort.
Devant de corsage or stomachers.
Fans, lorgnettes and other accoutrements.
While clearly the Russians wore rings, we don’t hear much about them. They are curiously under-discussed.
Since antique Russian jewelry is in such high demand, it comes as no surprise that the bad guys have got in on the act. There are lots of forgeries out there. Please be very careful about who you buy from? Do they, as we do, offer a 100% guarantee; will they give you your money back? What sort of record/feedback do they have? We take pride in answering affirmatively to all of the above. You can buy your wonderful antique Russian jewelry from us with total confidence.