Rare Book on Romanov Jewels on Display

Fersman, A. E. (1925) Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones. The People's Commissariat of Finances, Moscow

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The Gemological Institute of America's (GIA) latest museum exhibit, Tablet to Tablet: Treasured Pages from Past to Present, showcases more than 26,000 pages from rare books on gems, minerals, and natural science dating back to the 15th century. The collection is on display at the GIA museum in Carlsbad, California, and will be open to the public through mid-year.

The exhibit encompasses the development of gemology, crystallography, jewelry manufacturing and design, valuation of gemstones and precious metals, diamond mining and more. Among the 15 cases of books and distinctive objects, is the documentation of one family’s incredible wealth: the Romanov jewels and regalia.

The spectacular jewelry collection of the Romanov dynasty, acquired over 228 years, is documented in Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, by A.E. Fersman, and issued by The People's Commissariat of Finances, Moscow in 1925. Most of the collection still remains in Russia at the Kremlin Diamond Fund.

This rare copy is one of the very few surviving catalogs documenting Russia's regalia and crown jewels at the time of the overthrow of the tsarist government after the February Revolution of 1917. Published in 1925 by the Bolshevik government, it was printed in three versions: Russian, French and English. While we do not know how many were produced, less than 20 copies of the catalog are known to exist today. GIA’s book is housed in the Cartier Rare Book Repository & Archives and has been scanned for viewing in the library.

The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia beginning in 1613. The jewels documented in this catalog date from Peter I, better known as Peter the Great, who reigned from 1689 to 1725 through Nicolas II who reigned from 1894 to February 18, 1917.

In 1922, under the new leadership of Lenin, leader of the USSR and Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, the treasure was inventoried and cataloged. The project was overseen by Fersman, the noted Russian mineralogist, with the help of specialists, experts and jewelers including Agathon Fabergé, son of Carl, from the House of Fabergé.

After the subsequent October Revolution when the provisional government is usurped, Agathon was imprisoned twice. After his release a second time, he was requested to assist in the project by Leon Trotsky. According to Bainbridge’s discussion with Agathon, it was Agathon who insisted that a full-size photograph be taken of every piece as well as the weight of every stone and pearl recorded in the catalog. While the catalog entries are very detailed, the catalog was published with only 100 full size photographs. Many of the photographs are different views of the same object and some of the photographs are of portions of paintings in which the crown jewels and regalia are depicted.

Of the 406 separate pieces of jewelry in the treasure, 269 pieces were documented as having come from a particular Romanov reign: Peter I (1619-1725) and his daughter Elisabeth (1741-1761) accounted for 52 items; Catherine II (1762-1796) and her son Paul I (1769-1601) accounted for 110 items; Alexander I (1801-1825) and his brother Nicolas I (1825-1855) 62 items; Alexander II (1855-1881) and his brothers Alexander III (1881-1894) and Nicolas II (first part of his reign 1894-1899), 24 items, and the remaining years of Nicolas II’s reign (1900-1917), 14 items.

The treasure is comprised of crowns, globes, scepters, chains, stars, crosses, emblems, diadems, necklaces, brooches, rings, earrings, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, spinels, pearls, alexandrites, etc.

The catalog states that the National Property would “never be sold or done away with”. However, because of the government’s desperate need for money, the catalogs were sent to potential buyers for the jewelry, stones and regalia. Although the treasure was later removed from the market, some of the pieces were sold to a syndicate and eventually wound up at auction at Christie’s London, March 16, 1927.

*Before February 1, 1918, Russia used the Julian calendar. The February and October Revolution and the date for Nicolas’ abdication follow this calendar. On the Gregorian, or Western, calendar, the abdication is recorded as March 15, 1917.

Source & Copyright: Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
27 January, 2012

Auction of Russia's Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones in 2010

||| Rare Photographic Record of the Russian Crown Jewels to be Auctioned |||

||| "Russia's Treasure" Sold in USA |||