Some contextual information

During the 18th Century three centres of production were set up exclusively for the needs of the Imperial Family. These produced a vast quantity of hard stone objects from buttons, boxes, tabletops, urns and architectural components such as fireplaces, columns and tombs.

Peter the Great had seen stonecutting in Holland, so he instigated the gem and stone grinding production at his summer palace Peterhov just outside St Petersburg. After several geological expeditions, under the auspices of Empress Catherine, larger veins of hard stone were discovered, many of which were unique to Russian lands. For obvious practical reasons it made sense to take the factory to the stone source instead of the other way around, so 1751 saw the opening of a facility at Ekaterinburg in the Urals and in 1784 at Kolyvan in the Altai Mountains. A few private family factories were also set up like the one owned by the Demidov family dynasty, who benefitted hugely from their almost exclusive access to malachite.

This Golden Age of hardstone production saw great architects like Rossi and Voronikhin working in Russia employing its use early in the 19th Century, and the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts controlling the standards of design.

The Tsars and Imperial family gave pieces as both personal and diplomatic gifts scattering examples across the world.

During the second half of the 19th Century, demand grew for copies of the many treasures admired by visitors on the Northern Grand Tour, which included Russia. So shops and Galleries sprung up on the Nevsky Prospect, St Petersburg, to serve these new and wealthy visiting customers. At the same time an influx of Italian craftsmen brought with them new skills and techniques which they used to maximise the beauty of these hardstone objects.The Bolshevik Revolution inevitably saw the collapse of this luxury goods trade.

With the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution, many treasures were sold around the world in both private and public collections. While the whereabouts of many of these objects is well documented, many more have yet to be traced and recorded.