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Meeting of the Hermitage Friends’ Club
The Crown of the Russian Empire

On January 31, 2013, the General Staff Building hosted the latest meeting of the Hermitage Friends’ Club. O.G. Kostyuk, Deputy Head of the Department of Western European Applied Art, gave a lecture for the guests entitled The Great Imperial Crown. History and Modernity and a replica of the crown by the Jewelry Group Smolensk Diamonds was presented in one of the halls of the future Faberge' Museum.

More than 60 masters worked on the replica of the Great Imperial Crown in a modern version for half a year. The crown was made of white gold and 11,000 diamonds of ideal faceting and quality characteristics. The spinel in the replica was replaced with a unique natural red tourmaline with a mass of about 400 karats.

The Smolensk masters timed the creation of the replica of the Great Imperial Crown to coincide with the 250-year anniversary to the coronation of Empress Catherine II, the founder of the Hermitage.

Coronation in Russia goes back to the time of Ivan the Terrible. Until the beginning of the 18th century, all Russian tsars were crowned with the Monomakh’s Cap. In 1724, Peter I, for the coronation of his spouse, Catherine, issued an order to prepare a new crown, assigning the order to the master Samson Larionov. The crown with a weight of 4.5 pounds and a value 1.5 million rubles was distinguished by the richness of its decoration and rare selection of precious stones. Especially interesting among them was a finial in the form of a crest with a large sapphire the size of a pigeon egg. This rare mineral was bought in 1676 in Peking by Nikolai Spathari for the tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Furthermore, the stone decorated the crows of Anna Ioannovna, Elizaveta Petrovna, and, finally, crested the Great Crown of Catherine II.

George Frederick Ecart was appointed as the main master for the production of the new imperial crown for Catherine II. He made a carve frame for the crown, and Je're'mie Pauzie' decorated it with precious stones. The result of their joint was a crown with a weight of 1993.80 grams with 4936 diamonds and rare pearls. This unique work of the jeweler’s art, elegant, symbolic and creative, became the main piece of state regalia. Thereafter, all Russian monarchs were crowned with it. For every new coronation the stone setting was checked and they were cleaning. So that the crown was placed on a red velvet hate, there was a nicety, the inner ring was adjusted. The ceremony on the occasion of the coronation began with the transfer of the set of tsar’s regalia, since the regalia themselves were stored in the Winter Palace in Petersburg, and the ceremony was held in the Moscow Kremlin. A special ceremony was developed and approved for its transportation.

The Great Crown was used for a coronation for the last time in spring of 1896 on the ceremonial days of the ascension and anointment of Nikolai II. In 1914, due to military activity drawing closer to Petersburg, the question of evacuating the imperial regalia from the storage areas of the Cameral Division of the Imperial Office to a place further from the front line was discussed at the highest levels. The regalia were accompanied on the way by the head of the Cameral Division, and in Moscow they were accepted by the custodian of the Moscow Armory Chamber,
V.K. Trutovsky. In 1922, after the organization of the tate Precious Metals and Gems Repository (Gokhran), the regalia were sending to the newly formed Russian Diamond Treasury.

One of the interesting episodes in the life of the royal regalia was the work of the masters of the Carl Faberge' firm, which began to involve itself due to participation in the Exposition Universelle in 1900 in Paris. A unique work was presented at exposition, copies of the imperial regalia, scaled down ten times. Faberge' received special permission from the Court to make them. The regalia themselves were prepared in the workshop of Augustus Holstrem, although there is no mark on the piece. The silver base and de'cor around the column were produced by Julius Rappoport, whose seal was repeated many times. The crowns and orbs were placed on cushions of white velvet and placed on silver bases. The entire composition is placed on a sculpted column of pink quartzite with hammered silver garlands. The support of the great crown is marked with C. Faberge', SPB 1900. After the exhibit in Paris, Nikolai II acquired the piece for the Hermitage Treasure Gallery, where it was exhibited under a specially ordered glass bell, where it is kept to this day.

Replica of the Great
Imperial Crown

Replica of the Great
Imperial Crown. Detail


M.B. Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage Museum 

D.A. Kuntzev, General Director of Smolensk Diamonds Jewelry Group LLC

O.G. Kostyuk, Deputy Head of the Department of Western European Applied Art

V.P. Raevsky, Deputy General Director of PO Crystal OJSC

S.Yu. Philippova, Head of the Hermitage Friends’ Club

Meeting of the Friends in the General Staff Building

The Crown in the Hall of the future Faberge' Museum


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