Ancient Russia Jewellery
English Russian
English Russian

ANCIENT SLAVIC JEWELLERY IN THE COLLECTION OF THE RUSSIAN MUSEUM

  • By now more than 250 ancient Russian treasures troves are known;
  • Wide-scale preservation and research of treasure troves started in Russia in 1859 under the Emperor Alexander II;
  • The Russian Museum collection counts 10 ancient Russian treasures troves;
  • The Russian Museum collection is complete and well preserved.
Pot with jewelleries from Kiev treasure trove of 1893
Pot with jewelleries from Kiev treasure trove of 1893

History of the ancient Russian troves

The history of ancient Russian treasures troves, by now count more than 250, dates back to the IX-XII centuries. Particularly many troves were buried during the Mongol-Tatar attacks in Rus’ in 1237. The jewellery pieces dated back to those times were found with the traces of fire having faded and burnt enamel. To save their possessions merchants (kuptsy) and nobles (boyare) buried their treasures in pots putting them on an axe and covering with an object like a pan.

The first attempts to systemise and preserve antiquities had been initiated by the Sate already in the XVIIth century, however an extensive work on this attempt started in 1859 when Alexander II established Imperial Archaeological Commission in St. Petersburg, which was the first state body organising archaeological research, and participating in the protection of cultural heritage. Since that time the jewellery was purchased from the persons who found them in order to donate them to museums. Nevertheless, not all artefacts reached state museum funds as many of them were stolen or scrapped for the sake of precious metals.

Ryasny. Second part XIIth century. Kiev. Gold, pearls; embossing, enamelling, soldering.
Ryasny. Second part XIIth century. Kiev. Gold, pearls; embossing, enamelling, soldering.

The Russian Meseum collection of treasure troves

The Russian Museum collection by now counts ten ancient troves, represented by the jewellery pieces like signet rings, naruchi (vemraces), torcs, temple rings, ochelye (headband), kolts, ryasna, barmy. Some pieces may be distinguished as masterpieces of ancient Russian jewellery making. Back to those days the master made jewellery from gold, silver, bronze, copper alloy, and used various stones for incrustation – jasper, pearls, garnet, onyx and heliotrope.

The Russian Museum collection is unique as many of the paired jewellery pieces represent a complete set, for example, kolts and temple rings. Besides that the collection contains equally valuable and interesting jewellery making tools, such as embossing molds.

Paired temple rings, second part XIIth – fisrt part XIIIth centuries. Gold; soldering, skan’, zern’, soldering.
Paired temple rings, second part XIIth – fisrt part XIIIth centuries. Gold; soldering, skan’, zern’, soldering.

Ancient Rus’ jewellery masters

Ancient jewellery masters used various techniques:

  • Skan’ – twisting of thin silver or golden wires;
  • Zern’ – covering the surface with golden or silver granules;
  • Enamelling – patterning surface filling spaces with enamel, which was then fired and polished. Bysantine technique;
  • Engraving was also widely used in the jewellery making and represented genre scenes, pagan rituals, mythical or real animals and birds.

Some of the most ancient pieces have distinguished signs of Scandinavian culture influence. This may indicate either Scandinavian origin of the jewellery or strong influence of Northern Europe on jewellery masters.

Paired kolts depicting birds. Front side. First part XIIth century (?). Kiev. Gold; embossing, engraving, skan’, mounting, soldering.
Paired kolts depicting birds. Front side. First part XIIth century (?). Kiev. Gold; embossing, engraving, skan’, mounting, soldering.

Exhibition at the Russian Museum

16 December 2015 – 16 March 2016 the Russian Museum held an exhibition “Treasures of Ancient Russia from the Russian Museum Collection”. More than 400 jewellery pieces made in various styles and techniques, as well as the tools of jewellery masters were exhibited. Despite the exhibition is long ago over, the catalogue with high quality illustrations is still available on the website of the Russian Museum.

Barmy. Bead necklace with medallion depicting a cross. End of XIIth – first fart XIII century. Rus’. Silver; soldering, skan’, zern’, mounting, soldering, gilting, engraving.
Barmy. Bead necklace with medallion depicting a cross. End of XIIth – first fart XIII century. Rus’. Silver; soldering, skan’, zern’, mounting, soldering, gilting, engraving.

Sources:

  1. С.М. Новаковская-Бухман. Клады Древней Руси в собрании Русского музея / Русский музей представляет: Клады Древней Руси в собрании Русского музея / Альманах. Вып. 457. СПб: Palace Editions, 2015, ISBN 978-5-93332-525-3
  2. Императорская Археологическая Комиссия (1859-1917): К 150-летию со дня основания. У истоков отечественной археологии и охраны культурного наследия / Науч. ред.-сост. А.Е. Мусин. Под общей ред. Е.Н. Носова. – СПб.: ДМИТРИЙ БУЛАНИН, 2009, ISBN 978-5-86007-606-8
Recommended
Alexey Kovalev

The Interview: Alexey Kovalev

Alexey Kovalev, member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly talks about treasures searching in Russia, metal detectors, illegal archaeological excavations, international legislation on the protection of archaeological heritage and up-to-date Russian legislation.

NEXT...
ALL ARTICLES
Hagelstam & Co will be doing a sale of a collection of porcelain containing figurines, vases, coffee and dinner sets by Royal Copenhagen, Bing & Grøndahl, Lungby, Wedgwood and Dahl-Jensen. Featuring pieces modeled by sculptors Knud Kyhn, Christian Thomsen, Erik Nielsen, Holger Christensen, Johannes Heedegaard, Axel Locher and Olof Paulsen.  Next...
  • Views: 1965
On September 26th, 2018 German auction house Hampel Fine Art Auctions will offer important Old Master paintings for sale: François Boucher (1703 – 1770), Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691 – 1765), Hermann Tom Ring (1521 – 1596), Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 – 1625), Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502 – 1550), Giuseppe Bazzani (1690 – 1769), Frans Snyders (1579 – 1657), Jacopo di Cione (1325 – 1398), Michele Tosini (1503 – 1577), Hans Memling (1433 – 1494).  Next...
  • Views: 3411
On September 26th, 2018 German auction house Hampel Fine Art Auctions will offer for sale a series of Russian art lots. An enamel salt cellar from 1855, crystal bowl from 1900, several Russian icons from 18-19th centuries and photographs of Nicholas II to be offered at the upcoming sale.  Next...
  • Views: 5613
From September 17th to 21st, 2018 Swiss auction house Schuler Auktionen will be doing a sale of a series of items dedicated to Russian art as part of their main auction. Russian icons XVI-XX centuries are to be offered at the upcoming sale.  Next...
  • Views: 5757
Rebecca Reynolds holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of Nottingham. Following this she was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2016 and is interested in combining her archaeological background into her legal practice to explore and ensure continued and improved protection of cultural heritage. She currently works as a freelance zooarchaeologist and cultural heritage consultant. In the interview she talks about efficiency of the Treasure Act 1996 and protection of archaeological heritage in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Next...
  • Views: 2380
On June 18th and from June 20th to 22nd, 2018 Swiss auction house Schuler Auktionen will be hosting their next auction in Zurich. Among the lots to be offered for sale are some Russian icons from the XVII — XIX centuries: a large twopartite icon “Unexpected Joy” – “Synaxis of the Archangel Michael” (XIX century), “Christ Pantocrator” (1st part of the XIX century), “Archangel Michael Horseman” (XVIII century), “St. Elisha” (XVII century), “Fiery Ascent of the Prophet Elijah” (around 1600), “Christ Pantocrator” (XIX century), as well as the icon with the bright glass bead embroidered casing and the frame (XIX century).  Next...
  • Views: 6434
On June 6th, 2018 leading Russian art auction house MacDougall’s is hosting their next auction in London. The highlights: Konstantin Somov’s “Meeting in the Park” (1919), Ivan Shishkin's “Pine Forest. Yelbuga” (1897), Pavel Kuznetsov’s “Fountain” (1904), Chaïm Soutine’s portrait “La liseuse endormie, Madeleine Castaing” (c. 1937), Ivan Khrutsky's “Still Life with Fruit and Honeycomb” (1840), Alexander Deineka’s “Woman in a Yellow Dress” (1955), Georgy Nissky’s “Reclining Nude” (c. 1959) and other artwork.  Next...
  • Views: 7941
Martin Hans Borg, Russian art expert from Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, Denmark, talks about the Russian art auction on June 8th, 2018, as well as the role of provenance in the selection of items for auctions. “We have contact with the branches of the Danish royal house, which continuously consigns Russian art treasures to our auctions. It always provides an extraordinary touch when there are royal and imperial provenances on the lots that are up for auction. This is also the case at the summer's Russian auction."  Next...
  • Views: 9029
Excercising due diligence in art transactions means using stolen art databases. Obviously, the existence of separate databases renders the work of international art businesses more difficult by imposing additional responsibilities in the verification of provenance.  Next...
  • Views: 14586