The triumph of art over time: pre-revolutionary Russian tradition in contemporary jewellery.


The triumph of art over time:

pre-revolutionary Russian tradition in contemporary jewellery.


1.1.           Concept Overview


JUNWEX Premium presentation reveals the way the triumphant achievements of the Russian jewellery-making traditions before the Revolution of 1917 are now reborn in today’s art, which draws upon the heritage of the great masters of the past, such as Carl Fabergé, Pavel Ovchinnikov, Ignaty Sazikov, Ivan Khlebnikov, and many others. The project is intended to supplement the cultural programme for the Forum’s guests.


1.2.           Concept Background

The project aims to showcase the rapid development of Russia’s jewellery industry in the context of free market relations and the encouragement of private-public partnership. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the exhibition reaffirms the high level of mastery that Russian jewellers have achieved after overcoming a period of artistic deficit in the post-Soviet period.


Historical Aspect In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the art of jewellery-making in Russia reached insurmountable heights. This period saw significant changes in the jewellery style, with masters striving to set aside European tradition and returning to the roots of Russian art, which gave their work an unmistakable local colour. River pearls became especially popular at the time. Major factories specialising in making gold and silver jewellery began appearing in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Among these, the most famous were enterprises founded by Pavel Ovchinnikov, Ignaty Sazikov, Ivan Khlebnikov, Andrey Postnikov, the Grachyov Brothers, and of course, Carl Fabergé. The breathtaking skill of these great jewellers enraptured not only the Russian nobility, but also the royal courts of Western Europe. At the same time, some of their work (namely, cigarette cases and silverware) was accessible to the general public as well. Experts refer to the turn of the 19th century as the golden age of Russian jewellery-making. The History of Jewellery as an Art. In the 20th century, Russian jewellery experienced a surge of various artistic movements. During the first couple of decades, Russian art was dominated by the modern style. In jewellery, it displayed itself via the astounding complexity of patterns and ornamental designs. Highly popular components included platinum, palladium, and anodised aluminium. Diamonds returned to the spotlight as well. Largely thanks to the influence of the famous Coco Chanel, costume jewellery also became highly fashionable. During and after World War II, jewellery became somewhat simpler, with gold often being replaced by bronze. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the nonconformist spirit pushed jewellers to try out unorthodox materials that their predecessors would have considered unthinkable: wood, plastic, steel, and more. Increasingly complex technology allowed jewellers to introduce “chameleon” accessories that could change colour depending on the wearer’s body heat or colour. Various types of cultivated pearls spiked a great deal of interest. During the Soviet era, Russian jewellery companies mostly specialised on products for mass consumption. However, at the end of last century, contemporary jewellers came up with the idea of recreating the Russian Jewellers’ Guild, in order to restore the art of jewellery-making to its former glory and produce new masterpieces.


Modern Art These days, jewellery is steadily turning from craft to an art form – perhaps even more so than at any other time. Jewellery has grown to be a form of creative expression. Modern enterprises use more advanced equipment and easily accessible materials, with a large share of jewellery being based on synthesised components. And even though these materials cannot surpass the flawless beauty of natural gemstones, they are still quite worthy rivals. Today’s jewellery art is a worthy successor of the old masters’ fine traditions. Vibrant representatives that enrich the heritage of the past are represented by such widely known and well-established enterprises as: Ural Jewellers, Russkiye Samotsvety, Krasnoselsky Yuvelirprom, Russkie Remesla, the Russian Silver Volgorechensk Jewellery Factory, and many more, alongside with modern companies founded by the entrepreneurs of today’s generation: Argentov, Altmaster, Rodis, Sentiabrev, Estet, Tsemokh, Starye Gody, Guriaty, Vladimir Mikhailov’s Gallery, Gringor, Yuri Feodorov’s Artistic Workshops, Alexey Pomelnikov, and others. The high production capacity and use of new technology allows Russian jewellers to contend for the title of emerging companies with high potential for competing in international markets.


1.3.           Concept of the Exhibition Presentation during the Forum:

  • dedicated to art and covering several areas that are linked by a single shared topic (the rebirth of pre-revolution traditions in modern Russian jewellery);
  • with contributions by domestic jewellery manufacturers.


Key goals of the project include:


  • allowing participation in the Forum’s main programme to generate extra value for the delegates, by means of a unique cultural programme, which will complement the cultural events scheduled in St. Petersburg for this period;
  • displaying the potential of Russia’s cultural resources, particularly in the context of investments and development;
  • promoting national jewellery brands.


1.4.           Time and Place

 Location: Moscow, RussiaDates: November 11–13, 2017

Venue: Moscow WTC


1.5.           Organised by:

The Russian Jewellery Trade Club, the ROSKONGRESS Foundation, the RusJewellerExpert company.


1.6.           Potential Partners

As potential partners, we are considering:

  • Appropriate authorities (the Russian Ministries of Culture, Industry and Trade, and Finance)
  • The relevant departments of the Administration of St. Petersburg
  • Regional and federal media


1.7.           Key Success Factors

  • Holding the exhibition as part of the Forum programme will help achieve and maintain a high status
  • An additional news-maker


1.8.           Structure and Specific Features of the Exhibition’s Layout

The exhibition is to have a unified style and will be part of the Forum’s main business programme. The exhibits on display will visualise the key idea: demonstrating how the techniques of the great masters from the late 19th and early 20th century are reflected and honed even further in the works of today’s jewellers. The exhibition will feature pictures of turn-of-the-century jewellery and of modern artwork that is based on earlier jewellery-making traditions. In the centre of the exhibition hall, we will place a replica of the Imperial Crown of Russia, made at Kristall Smolensk.


Modern art’s take on heritage of the pre-revolution jewellery-making traditions; the rebirth of Russian jewellery as an art form



In the centre: a replica of the Imperial Crown of Russia, crafted by modern master jewellers.

While stylistically faithful to the original, this replica of the Imperial Crown of Russia is vastly different technology-wise. This crown is made out of white non-rhodanised 585 carat gold (as opposed to silver in the original), over 11,000 diamonds (twice as many as in the original), and 74 pearls. The crown is topped by a mixed-cut gemstone, of a rare variety called rubellite, 50 x 42.5 cm in size (380 carat). The total weight of the crown is 2,312 g.




Exhibition layout:

Pre-revolution masters

(pictures of works, background information):

Modern jewellers/companies that use similar techniques (samples of jewellery):

Carl Fabergé’s Workshops Russkiye Samotsvety, Guriaty, Alexey Pomelnikov, Sirin, Sergey Falkin Workshop
Peter Pavlovich Milyukov’s Factory Alexei and Daniil Dontsov, Nikolay Balmasov, Rostov Enamel
Nikolai Nemirov-Kolodkin’s Factory Russian Silver Volgorechensk Jewellery Factory, Gringor, Yuri Feodorov’s Artistic Workshops, Rodis
Andrey Mikhailovich Postnikov’s Factory Russkiye Samotsvety, Krasnoselsky Yuvelirprom
Orest Fedorovich Kurlyukov’s Factory Altmaster, Kubachi Combined Artistic Enterprise,
Ivan Semyonovich Gubkin’s Silverware Factory ArgentA, Popov’s Empire of Silver, Ural Jewellers
Pavel Akimovich Ovchinnikov’s Firm Severnaya Chern (Northern Niello), Russkie Remesla, Russian Silver Volgorechensk Jewellery Factory
Ivan Petrovich Khlebnikov’s Factory Russkiye Samotsvety, Sentiabrev
Grachyov Brothers’ Factory Altair, Russian Style
Ignaty Sazikov’s Firm, the royal supplier of silverware Silver Orchid, NIKA, Zlatoust Factory

1.9.           The Jewellery Houses of Pre-Revolution Russia (the Basis for the Exhibition)




St. Petersburg-born Carl Fabergé was brought up in the spirit of the classical tradition. His work embodies a desire to grasp the essence of history’s most illustrious epochs, alongside an ability to discover the new means of applying and reproducing jewellery designs from different periods. The assortment of the Fabergé Firm’s products is incredibly diverse, from jewellery and frames to all possible types of trinket boxes, sculptures, tea sets, religious objects, and items for home and body care. Fabergé items are noted for their intricate design, aesthetically pleasing shapes, and harmonious colour combinations. A single piece of jewellery of a relatively small size may combine a multitude of exquisite shades of gold, enamel, and gemstones. Carl Fabergé used more precious and semi-precious gems than any other jeweller in history. His firm also worked with enamels, surpassing all its competitors in the area. Among them, the most distinctive is guilloché enamel (usually transparent), which, together with the refined carved background patterns, could be used for decorating any type of item. The Fabergé Firm used over a hundred shades of different colours, allowing achievement of the most subtle shifts and blends.

This factory specialised in making jewellery pieces in the Russian and mixed style, which became evident, for the most part, in the choice of themes, forms, and techniques (such as enamel, niello, and silver engraving). Many such items are decorated with astonishing painted enamel miniatures and encrusted with semi-precious gemstones. As all other Moscow-based silverware factories, Milyukov’s business also produced objects needed for Orthodox Christian religious ceremonies, including icons. Some of these lavishly decorated relics have been carefully preserved at the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Armoury Chamber.




Punch bowl and glasses (silver, gilded on the inside), circa 1890.

Frame for the icon of St. Nicholas. Silver, gilding, cloisonné enamel, metal punching, embossing, stamping, 1896.




The assortment of items produced by this firm was so vast that it is impossible either to name a prevalent style or to say which jewellery pieces or which technique the firm did not specialise in. One thing is certain, however: the firm employed talented master jewellery makers, as well as artists, whose designs served as a basis for new products. Antiquarians put high price tags on Nemirov-Kolodkin’s jewellery, which gives rise to the number of forgeries.




In the 1850s and 1860s, only five factories specialising in bronze items remained in Moscow. Products from the 1850s-1890s were not in great demand. However, when founding his enterprise, Andrey Mikhailovich Postnikov, an expert on icons and Orthodox ceremonial objects, made an astute decision to make large-scale items out of not only gold and silver but also out of bronze – a choice that proved quite lucrative in the long run. The items were designed in the Russian style, with new techniques being complemented by the thorough research and reproduction of old masters’ work. The firm’s hallmark was its impeccably intricate skan’ filigree, as well as various works in the 15th–17th century Russian and Byzantine style, along with massive bronze chandeliers. The firm never suffered from the lack of commissions, especially those for temple decorations.




















Orest Fedorovich Kurlyukov (born in 1845) was one of Moscow’s youngest entrepreneurs specialising in jewellery to launch his own independent business in the late 19th century, and to quickly gain a reputation that rivalled that of Russia’s most prestigious firms. Kurlyukov’s products gained instant popularity among customers, and the firm was flooded with commission requests. Orthodox symbols for churches, cathedrals, and private clients; all types of writing sets; tableware, samovars, and silverware; casings for crystal items; jewellery boxes and cigarette cases; candlesticks; and even ornaments for perfume parlours, made out of precious metals. Kurlyukov was not too fond of depicting the scenes from folk festivals and Russian rural life. Nor are the objects produced by his firm characterised by frequent imitations of birch bark, bast, and other ‘Russian textures’, which were in vogue at the time. That said, the line-up of Kurlyukov’s factory abounds with diverse stylised designs, patterns borrowed from old Russian artefacts, and images of historical sites and buildings.




Gubkin’s factory mainly specialised in church supplies in the Old Slavonic style, as well as in tableware and ornamental vessels. In addition, it produced jewellery boxes, writing sets, cigarette cases, tabletop sculptures, candlesticks, and other interior ornaments. The factory had a number of trademark techniques: casting, stamping, engraving, embossing, and niello. It was Gubkin’s trompe-l’œil (forced perspective) artwork that give rise to a popular trend in the Russian style: items out of metal imitating other textures.



Pavel Ovchinnikov’s firm is renowned among Russian and foreign art connoisseurs for its strikingly diverse and uniquely beautiful creations, utilising the broadest range of production processes, techniques, and styles. The firm’s line-up features everyday household items, tableware, writing sets, boxes, albums, and cigarette cases, as well as religious objects, including chalices, winged altarpieces, and frames for holy books and icons. Many of these objects have been preserved in the archives of state-owned museums across Russia, and even in the private collections of European royal families. More often than not, the master jewellers from Ovchinnikov’s factory became the new trend setters, as they not only developed the existing traditions but initiated new movements in the art of silver and gold jewellery-making in the second half of the 19th and the early 20th century.


Icon frame. 1889 Moscow. Pavel Ovchinnikov’s Firm

Ladle. Moscow. Pavel Ovchinnikov’s Firm. 1899–1908

Peasants Coming Home after Hay-Making Beer Tankard Pavel Ovchinnikov’s Firm. Moscow. 1873




The key element of Khlebnikov’s work was the Russian motif, which was harmoniously complemented by the minimalistic sculpted ornaments in the modern style. The traditional Russian patterns were traced with enamel, which made them look like delicate brush strokes or a sparkling jewelled mosaic. This technique was used for decorating tableware, writing sets, cigarette cases, snuff boxes, and small chests. The jewellers working at the Khlebnikov Factory were among the best masters of metal stamping, while also being especially adept at cloisonné enamel. In this immensely challenging and complex enamel technique, they even rivalled the absolute leader, Pavel Ovchinnikov. A lot of their work was augmented with painted enamel miniatures, while a combination of enamel and skan’ filigree turned the metal objects into intricate lace.


The work of the Grachyov Brothers reflect the general trends of the 19th century Russian silver and gold-working, namely the popularity of decorating various items with painted enamel plaques (which could depict portraits, landscapes, or old-style genre scenes) and carving delicately intertwining patterns on a silver or gold surface and then coating them with a very fine layer of semi-transparent enamel. The Russian filigree technique of skan’ also became quite widespread by the end of the century, thanks to the automation of factory labour: the carved patterns typical of Grachyov Factory masters are coated in guilloché enamel, which is vibrantly coloured and transparent at the same time. Another defining trait that makes the Grachyov firm’s products stand out even more is the superiorly crafted flattened skan’ webbing, where the enamel is not that vivid, mostly in the faded yellow and green colours.








Samovar in Rococo Revival style. Ignaty Sazikov, royal supplier of silverware. Moscow, Russian Empire, 1839.

Wine bowl. Ignaty Sazikov, royal supplier of silverware. St. Petersburg, Russian Empire, c. 1880.