Treasures of the USSR Diamond Fund (1980) / Comori din Fondul de Diamante al Rusiei.

Treasures of the USSR Diamond Fund (1980) / Comori din Fondul de Diamante al Rusiei.

The USSR Diamond Fund is one of the world’s largest collection of rare gems and jewelry of immense historic, artistic and material value.

Set up in honour of the 50th anniversary of Soviet power, the USSR Diamond Fund Exhibition has on display some of the most noteworthy historic and artistic objects which mirror the character and diversity of this unique collection.

The USSR Diamond Fund includes the historic jewels of Russia-gems, jewelry and the state regalia that became the property of the people after the October Revolution.

During the years of Soviet power, the treasures of the Diamond Fund have not only been preserved but considerably augmented. The Fund has been enlarged with particularly outstanding jewelry made of gems and precious metals as well as a large number of unrivalled diamonds from Soviet diamond fields.

Diamonds, whose name derives from the Greek adamant meaning unbreakable, hardest, have been known to man since the remote antiquity. Pliny the Elder, the Roman scholar and writer who lived in the first century A.D., mentions man’s preserving and age-long aspiration to make this remarkable crystal cut and drill the hardest material.

Diamonds were found rarely and far from every ruler could boast of having them in his possession.

There are many legends about diamonds, and belief in their magic qualities was sustained for long centuries.

They were held in esteem in Russia from time immemorial, for it was believed that they gave people strength and courage.

In the 17th century they were widely used by Russian jewellers, and in the eighties of that century dazzling diamond crowns were made for the tsars Ivan and Peter by the jewelsmiths of the Moscow Kremlin.

Jewelsmiths learned to facet diamonds, thereby laying bare their natural properties, their incomparable radiance, play of light and dazzle. The value of these precious stones rises considerably after they are cut.

Diamonds were held in particular esteem in the 18th century, which was the golden age of absolutist monarchies, whose grandeur and wealth was judged by the number and value of the diamonds in the official attributes of state power, i. e., in the paraphernalia of royalty.

The main items of this paraphernalia, which were always worn on solemn occasions, were a globe, a sceptre and a crown.

Every royal house sought to eclipse its rivals in wealth and in the beauty of its regalia. The Russian emperors aspired to have the most impressive crown jewels, and the royal treasures were therefore augmented with the most sumptuous regalia abundantly decorated with gems.

Because of the enormous material value as well as the political significance of these objects, which were symbols of power, they were closely guarded. An edict promulgated by Peter I stated that the regalia „shall be kept in the Treasury in a large chest with three locks, the keys to be in the possession of the President of the Chamber, a Councilor of the Chamber and the Royal Treasurer, and on State occasions the President and two Councilors of the Chamber shall go to the Treasury, unlock the aforementioned chest, take the appropriate objects of State and send them to the royal palace in the custody of the two Councilors of the Chamber. After the State occasion the aforementioned objects shall be returned to the Treasury.”

In addition to state regalia, the royal treasury contained rare precious stones and jewelry.

Interest in Russian gems increased in the 18th century with the development of mining in the Urals. Exquisitely beautiful multi-colored precious and semi-precious stones flowed into the royal treasure-stores and were used for formal dresses, fans, snuff-boxes, valuable weapons and state awards. The noted jewelsmiths J. Posier and L. Duval worked at the royal palace in those days. Objects made by them, whose beauty and elegance delighted contemporaries, are now in the USSR Diamond Fund. Posier made the most magnificent crown in Europe, selecting the best jewels and pearls from the royal treasure-store for it. It was a symbol of state power in Russia for nearly a century and a half.

From time to time the royal treasure-store was augmented with unique, unrivaled precious stones. These stones are on display on Exhibition. One of them was the bewitchingly beautiful Orlov diamond. Unusual in size, colour and purity, it is set in a sceptre. The famous spinel in the imperial crown (note: originally belonging to Nicolae Milescu a.k.a. „Spatarul”/ a Romanian word meaning „The Sword Bearer”, or War minister, from the former Principality of Moldavia, now eastern part of Romania) is of an incomparable vibrant dark-red. Another inimitable gem is the world-famous Shah diamond, which was brought to St. Petersburg in 1829 by the Persian prince Kosrev-Mirza as „redemption” for the murder in Teheran of A. S. Griboyedov, the celebrated writer who was the Russian ambassador to Persia.

The collection includes an entirely transparent and ideally polished flat diamond measuring 4 x 2.9 centimetres. This enormous gem is st in a Gothic bracelet. One of the highlights of the Diamond Fund is a huge Ceylonese sapphire set in a dazzling oreole of diamonds. Also the pride of the Diamond Fund is a unique deep-green square emerald, which is pure and transparent. Among the many other superb, sparkling gems in the Fund is a unique 192.60-carat olive-green crysolite, which is transparent and pure as a drop of spring water. On display at the Exhibition there are several badges of the Order of St Andrew, which was the highest pre-revolutionary decoration. It was instituted by Peter I and called in honour of the saint who in Russia was revered as the patron of the state.

This collection includes some of the world rarest gold and platinum nuggets: the famous „Big Triangle” (36 kilos, gold), Big Tyelginsky (14 kilos, gold), and the curiously-shaped Camel, Rabbit’s Ear and Mephistopheles, in which nature vies in expression with work of art.

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