A lost world, erased in the fires of a bloody revolution, a royal family hidden away then executed. The story, however briefly stated, is moving, and it is no wonder that we are still fascinated by the Romanovs and the lost world of Tsarist Russia. So much was destroyed by the communists that genuine pieces from the Romanov period are even more treasured than they might otherwise be, and here is one of those treasures, plucked from the ruins of a world long gone by. It is that most iconic of symbols that I present here: the Russian enameled egg. Much imitated, but never equaled, these eggs were made and given primarily on the Easter holiday, and particularly given by a young man to a young lady in whom he took an especial interest. It is impossible to know the identities of the original owners, we can only imagine the lives and loves in that lost world. But the egg itself does survive, in beautiful condition. Seven different colors of enamel adorn the egg, both opaque and translucent, giving the piece an intricate abstract floral design, that puts me in mind or orchids or irises. The colors are vivid, clear, almost glowing in their vivacity. A most superb example of classic Russian cloisonné enamel, the egg dates to somewhere between the 1870s and 1896, when the hallmarking laws were changed.
Condition: Excellent antique condition. There are a couple of tiny pinpricks, and one or two tiny places where the enamel runs over its individual cell. Those minute imperfections are part of the original construction, otherwise there are no blemishes visible to the naked eye, and those are extremely difficult to see. The egg measures 7/8" long without the bail and 5/8" across. The hallmarks, so important to a piece like this, are all that they should be. The first mark is 84 with the city mark for St. Petersburg next to it. The number 84 is for 84 out of 96 zolotniks, a Russian purity mark indicating the piece is 875/1000 parts silver, slightly below the 925/1000 which is the sterling purity level. The second mark is a maker's mark, the initials HA, the mark for Nikolay Vasilevich Alexeyev, a maker known to be active at least from 1885 in Moscow, who also exhibited in 1896 at the Exhibition in Nizhniy Novgorod, although up to this time I have not been able to find details of all the locations, years, etc. that this firm worked (Solodkoff, 206, 226; 925-1000 website).
A note about the authenticity of Russian pieces. Pre-Soviet, or Tsarist Russian pieces are incredibly sought after and are faked in huge numbers. Being able to sell an authentic Russian piece is something I take great pleasure in, and also take very seriously. Here are just a few of the aspects of this piece looked at when authenticating it: the size, shape, placement of the marks, the size and shape of the bail, the shape note only of the city mark, but the typeface of the numbers and the initials, the backside of the marks (some countries, though not Russia, have an abstract pattern on the anvil which shows up on the reverse of the mark), the type, quality, and colors of the enamel used. Some of the many questions I ask are: Does any part of the piece look as though it has been altered, repaired, or modified in any way? Is there an appropriate amount of wear to the piece and the marks? The marks are cut off slightly on the top and bottom, is that typical for Russian egg pendants? Most importantly, is there any detail, no matter how small or unimportant, that gives any doubt to the authenticity of this piece? I give this insight into my work to help explain the authentication process and to show the care and importance that is so critical to my business.
Divis, Jan. Guide to Gold Marks of the World. London, [England]: PRC Publishing Ltd., 1994.
Habsburg, Geza Von. Faberge Revealed: At the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2011.
Solodkoff, Alexander von. Russian Gold and Silverwork, 17th-19th Century. 1Sth Edition. New York: Rizzoli, 1981.
Whetstone, William B., Danusia V. Niklewicz, and Lindy L. Matula. World Hallmarks - Vol. I - Europe, 19th to 21st Centuries, 2nd Edition. 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Hallmark Research Institute, 2010.
Item ID: 0117
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