"Russia's Treasure" Sold in USA

A rare copy of “Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” has been auctioned off in the USA for $15,500.

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“Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones” has been auctioned off in the USA. A rare book with this title published in the Soviet Union in 1925 has been sold for $15,500.

Experts of the “Heritage Auction” presenting the book declared it to be one of the few copies that have survived until today. It contains a full inventory of the Romanovs’ royal treasury. It would be an understatement to call the book just a rarity.

“The Voice of Russia” contacted the Moscow Kremlin Museums which also have a copy of the book, in an edition published a year later. Both publications were meant for foreign readers and their contents were an exact reproduction of the main publication known in the world as “The Diamond Collection of the USSR”.

Tatiana Tutova, the manager of the depositary of manuscripts and the archives in the Kremlin Museums, has told us the story of this rare book.

“The book came out in 1924. The first edition consisted of 25 specimen copies. Afterwards, there were four more editions containing a catalogue of the treasures of the Russian Imperial House edited by Academician Fersman.

Each edition included 25 tables with pictures of the jewellery and the text was in three languages – Russian, French and English. There were 200 copies in each edition. Not only our library but other large Russian libraries have this book. It is certainly of great value. The edition is very expensive, the phototype tables are life-size.”

Recall the collection of the royal treasures itself and its dramatic fate. Before the First World War it was kept in the Diamond Room of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. In 1914 the treasures were urgently taken to Moscow and placed in the depositary of the Armoury Chamber where they stayed until January 1922 when a commission of experts was set to assess and select the royal treasures.

The task of the commission was to determine the fate of the royal collection founded by Peter the Great. During his reign the royal family’s most valuable treasures were granted the status of state property.

After that all Russian Emperors replenished the collection with rare stones, magnificent jewellery, military orders and other valuables. When the commission finished its work, the majority of the items were turned over to Russian museums.

The priceless Imperial regalia and crown jewels went to Gokhran, the state depositary of valuables, which became the successor of the Royal Treasury in 1920. During the famine of the 1920s and 1930s a considerable part of the royal treasures was sold by auction abroad, by order of Sovnarkom, the Soviet government. The list of these treasures is very long, says Tatiana Tutova sadly.

“A lot of items were sold. A list of these objects was published, there are also auction catalogues. Then, in the 1920s, it was viewed differently, not as a crime, because the treasures were sold to buy trains, tractors and other necessary things.”

Since then, Russian czarinas’ jewellery, studded with diamonds and emeralds, have been regularly surfacing at famous world auctions.

For example, in April this year Christie’s sold an emerald brooch which once belonged to Catherine the Great. The lot was auctioned off for $1,650,500. The fate of some other works of art, mentioned in the book of Russian treasures, still remains a secret. We can only admire the pictures in the book.

Source: The Voice of Russia
19 October, 2010