In Sweden in 2009, an exciting find was discovered: Collections of jewels that had previously belonged to the last Russian Tsar and his family were declared by the Swedish Foreign Ministry and subsequently made available for sale at Sotheby’s in London.
The collection which included fine works by Faberge and Bolin were unearthed after being kept out of the public eye for nearly ninety years. But how had they lain undetected for so long?
The Romanov collection
Any mention of Russian jewellery as a whole will bring to mind the incredible creations of the House of Faberge. Like most royal families, the Romanov’s collected and were given some incredible items of jewellery and some of the finest items in history made their way into the Royal Palaces.
As such, the history of Faberge is inextricably linked to the last years of Imperial Russia.
The first Faberge Egg
The original Faberge egg was crafted for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife as an Easter Egg in 1885. The Tsar and the Empress were so delighted with the creation that Faberge were installed as ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’ and from then until the fall of the royal family in 1917, some very special Faberge eggs were created.
The House of Bolin
Included in the Swedish find were many fine items of jewellery that had originated from the House of Bolin.
Bolin are one of the oldest jewellery firms in the world and although the company archives are notoriously scarce, it’s widely acknowledged that the company was first established in St Petersburg in 1790. From that point onwards, fine pieces were made for many generations of the Russian Royal Family.
The Swedish Find
The quantity of Romanov jewels was first made public by the Swedish public in 2008 and because very little of the last Tsar’s treasures had been found following his family’s execution, it was widely believed that they had been smuggled out of Russia.
It subsequently transpired that the Tsar’s aunt, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder had them spirited out of the country via the Swedish Embassy in St Petersburg.
As Swedish expert Professor Krister Valbek said in 2008,
“We have discovered a large quantity of jewels which were brought to what was known as the Swedish mission in Petrograd in November 1918 by a confidant of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.”
The jewels included fine works by both Faberge and Bolin amongst others and were put up for sale at Sothebys at an estimated valuation of $2.8 million.
The world as a whole must be indebted to Duchess Maria Pavlovna and if it wasn’t for her actions, the jewels are likely to have been lost forever. In many ways, they do symbolise the decadence for which the Royal Family were despised in some quarters but as the fall of the Russian Empire reaches its centenary, the world is a richer place for the retention of the Romanov jewels.