This marvelous collection covers the period between the 1st century BC and 20th and consists of over 3,000 objects produced in India, Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, Byzantium, the Crimea, Volga Valley, China, Mongolia, Indonesia and South America.
The Iranian art is represented most comprehensively – from the ancient times to the late 19th century. The most valuable are pieces of the 5th to 2nd centuries BC, the era of the Achaemenid dynasty and spreading of Hellenistic traditions throughout the East after the conquests of Alexander the Great. These are cast gold figurines of real and fabulous creatures; impressive neck ornaments, grivnas, made from hollow gold pipes and decorated with incrusted animal figures; silver disks, falars, and vessels variable in forms and techniques.
Among the pieces of the marvelous official Sun Service, dated from the early 19th century, are distinguished the gold stands for ten cups made from English porcelain and bearing portraits of Iranian Shah Fath Ali and his heir Abbas Mirza, and the gold tray created by Iranian craftsmen.
The collection of 17th-century Indian jewellery is likely the only one in the world. It contains vessels and utensils, leg-bracelets, special headdress ornaments, rings and other objects.
Among the pieces of Indian jewellery stands out a small group of seventeen articles and one signet ring, all made of gold and richly decorated with precious stones or exquisite enamels in various colours: a table/stand, variety of vessels, small trays and boxes. The precious stones used for decoration are of three kinds: diamonds, rubies and emeralds of Colombian origin. Shah Jahan's splendid gold signet ring, decorated with a large diamond, rubies and emeralds, is the only item bearing an original engraved inscription – ‘Second Sahibqiran'.
These objects were gifts sent by Nadir-Shah, from the Iranian Embassy, which visited St Petersburg on October 2, 1741.
Chinese jewellery of the 17th to 18th centuries constitutes a good part of the entire collection. It includes gold and silver censers and vessels, and large and small openwork boxes, flasks and trays made in the filigree technique. No less interesting are small figurines and woman's gold filigree ornaments: various pins, brooches, many of which are decorated with coloured polished stones, mainly ruby and spinel.
The world famous collection of Oriental parade arms and armour occupies an important place in the museum collection. It was the prospective Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who started this collection. Now it contains Indian, Persian and Turkish edged weapons decorated with precious stones with gold and silver sheaths frequently made from the famous damask steel.
Two hundred pieces originated from South America constitute a small but wonderful group. Mainly, these are cultic objects decorated with gemstones: small figurines, ritual objects for the burial created by Columbia craftsmen. The most important item is the celebrated ‘Mexican bell', a gold breast pendant in the form of the Warrior-Eagle.
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