Catherine the Great

Rare gold, silver & diamond gift brooch, Vasily Kangin, St. Petersburg circa 1900

At the great (and small) courts of Europe it was and still is customary to give jewellery as gifts on great and small occasions, for loyal service, great deeds or minor favours. These pieces of gift jewellery, often brooches, pins or even cufflinks, were considered honourable awards for all cases in which no medal could or should be awarded. Here is a rare, precious and excellent quality brooch, which was certainly once presented as such a gift, at the Tsar's court in St. Petersburg. In a frame of sparkling old-cut diamonds Catherine the Great is depicted in front of a red enamelled background. She looks to the right, in flat relief the Tsarina is shown in baroque splendour, with flowing curls and a large décolleté. Around her, gold letters state her name and title: "Б М ЕКАТЕРИНА II ІМП ИСАМОД ВСЕ РОСС" - "By the Grace of God Katherina II Empress and Autocrat of All Russia." The brooch looks as if a coin had become a piece of jewelry, indeed, as if the goldsmith had sawn out a gold coin and mounted it on enamel. In fact, during Catherine's reign, gold coins were made with her effigy in exactly this form, with a long curl and ermine shoulders, for example, on the 10 ruble gold coin. And this impression is also repeated on the reverse of the brooch, where Catherine's mongram can be seen, as it was minted on some kopeks of her reign. But the size of the depiction leaves no doubt: it is not a coin, but a deliberately made for the brooch. So-called. Coin brooches were quite popular gifts in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century. Enclosed we reproduce a page from the catalogue Géza von Habsburg (ed.): Fabergé - Cartier. Rivals at the Czar's Court. Munich 2003, p. 286, showing two brooches and a pair of cufflinks, which were similarly created in the workshop of Karl Fabergé. The present brooch was made and signed by Vasily Kangin, a master goldsmith who, as a major competitor of Fabergé, was also based in St. Petersburg. The hallmarks on the brooch also indicate that it was made in the short period between 1889 and 1908, as the hallmarks struck here were only used in these years. Later the brooch was imported to France, where again import hallmarks were applied. The tsarist gift came to us from England, where many members of the Russian nobility found refuge and exile after the October Revolution.

Russia on the threshold of the 20th century: Under the last tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, the country - despite all adversities - once again experiences a cultural flowering. In St. Petersburg, the fabulously wealthy nobility celebrated in their palaces. Artists such as Tolstoy, Chekhov and Tchaikovsky create masterpieces that are still the epitome of the Russian soul today. Carl Fabergé, born in St. Petersburg in 1846, became the court jeweller to the Russian tsars with the jewellery he produced, above all the world-famous Fabergé eggs, and supplied the whole of Europe with precious and exceptional luxury jewellery around 1900. The name Fabergé has become synonymous with the lavish splendour of the era around the penultimate turn of the century. His creations, mostly in colourful enamel, quickly became an indispensable status symbol for the rich and beautiful. Even Cartier in Paris copied the designs from St. Petersburg and took a long time to free itself from the shadow of its competitor. Fabergé was not, however, the only goldsmith and jeweller in the Tsar's wealthy city. Numerous other workshops such as Bolin, Britzin, and Köchlin vied for the public's favor, and their competition led to an exceptionally high quality of materials and workmanship in the jewelry of this era.

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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