Treasures from the Russian Museum of Ethnography. Traditional Jewelry of the Peoples of Russia

Among the richest collections of the Russian Museum of Ethnography, the treasury of jewelry, numbering over 12.000 pieces, holds a distinguished position. This collection is now presented in a prestigious exhibition, entitled Treasures of Saint-Petersburg: The Folk Art of Jewelry since 17th  to 20th-centuries.

The unique creations of unknown craftsmen of the past are treasures indeed, not only because they are just precious metals and gems, but because they hold tremendous historical and artistic value. The majority of the Museum’s pieces date from 19th  and 20th  centuries, although rare examples of 17th - and early 18th  centuries are also found in the Museum collection.

The current exhibition is designed to display the variety of forms of jewelry, production techniques and styles of decoration found in different regions of the Russian Empire. The structure of the exhibition, accordingly, consists of seven sections that correspond to seven cultural and historical regions of jewelry production.

These regions which emerged in Russia since 17th to 20th centuries, include Russia, the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Moldavia, the Baltic, the Volga-Urals region, the Caucasus and Daghestan, Central Asia and Kazakhstan, Siberia and the Far East. These sections of the exhibition are further subdivided according to the local variations in the art of jewelry-making. The focus of each section is a complete festive costume which displays a full set of the adornments that formed an indispensable part of the regional costume.

The production and wearing of jewelry is one of the most ancient activities of humankind; hence, it is one of the most ancient aspects of human culture. This exhibition presents such artifacts as:

 - Russian women’s headgears, necklaces, and earrings decorated with fine river pearls;
 - Massive silver fibula- and breast-chains of the Baltic peoples;
 - Delicate filigree adornments of the Kazan Tartars;
 - Bright coral pendants from the costume of a Buryat woman;
 - The monumental, engraved ornamental jewelry of Turkmen women. A complete festive set of this jewelry was extremely heavy, weighing about 15 kilograms.
 - Varied pieces produced by the Caucasian and Daghestan peoples, who have been known since ancient times for the skill of their masters in the art of jewelry-making.

Magnificent specimens of parade arms - swords, daggers and pistols worked by Lakski and  Kubachinski craftsmen of Daghestan for presentation to Alexander III - may also be displayed at this exhibition. The scabbards of the swords and daggers are decorated with raised coinage and twining plants delicately engraved in nielloed silver. Bone inlay gives the arms an air of refinement, while gilding adds to their smartness.

     Magnificence and opulence distinguishes the arms and riding gear given to the Russian Imperial family by the Emir of Bukhara. Thin gold plates, with stamped ornamentation and insets of emeralds, pearls and turquoise, decorate the scabbards and handles of the swords, knives and battle-axes. These arms complemented the parade dress of the Eastern nobility, as shown by the exhibit of the gold-embroidered robe of the Emir, trimmed by a broad belt with gold plates and gem insets.

The exhibition visitors are sure to enjoy viewing two unique articles: decorative enameled plates created by the craftsmen of the famous Moscow jewelry house of Ovchinnikov. They were made at the end of the last century on the order of the Don Kalmyks and the Ter Kazaks as a gift to Emperor Alexander III.

Space required – approximately 200 square meters.

Number of objects – about 100