<- предыдущая страница следующая ->
THE USSR DIAMOND FUND is one of the world's largest collections of rare gems and jewelry of immense historic, artistic and material value. Held 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 coronation regalia that became the property of the people after the October Revolution.
During the half-century 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 remote antiquity. Pliny the Elder, the Roman scholar and writer who lived in the first century A. D., mentions man's persevering and ancient aspiration to make this remarkable crystal cut and drill the hardest materials. It was revered as a "royal stone" and valued more than any other treasure.
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 magical properties was sustained for long centuries.
They were held in esteem in Rus 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 jewelsmiths at 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. е., 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. They are now in the USSR Diamond Fund. 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 royal 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 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-coloured precious and semi-precious stones flowed into the royal treasure-stores and were used for formal dresses, fans, snuff-boxes, valuable weapons and state Orders. 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 the 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, unrivalled precious stones. These stones are on display at the 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 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 Khosrev-Mirza as "redemption" for the murder in Teheran of A. S. Griboyedov, the celebrated poet who was the Russian ambassador in Persia. The collection includes entirely transparent and ideally polished flat diamond measuring 7.5 square centimetres. This enormous gem is set in a Gothic bracelet. One of the highlights of the Diamond Fund is a huge Ceylonese sapphire set in a dazzling oreole of brilliants. 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 chrysolite, which is as transparent and pure as a drop of spring water.
On display at the Exhibition 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.
Immediately after the Great October Socialist Revolution, the Soviet Government took steps to safeguard historic treasures. The State Depository of Treasures of the RSFSR was set up in Moscow on February 3, 1920 by a decree of the Council of People's Commissars signed by Lenin to keep an account of all the country's reserves of gold and other precious metals and gems and to organise their safekeeping. Lenin regarded them as part of the people's wealth and urged that they should be properly looked after. He energetically helped to set up the State Depository and attentively followed its activities.
Early in 1922 the crown jewels were transferred to the State Depository and the study of these historic treasures was started for the first time. The team of scientists and experts, who included the jewellers A. C. Faberge, A. F. Kotler, В. E. Maseyev, and the expert N. A. Dmitriev of the State Depository, was headed by the prominent mineralogist A. E. Fersman. The artistic assessment was made by S. N. Troinitsky, Director of the Hermitage, and D. D. Ivanov, head of the Armoury.
In 1922 this collection was officially named the RSFSR Diamond Fund, and in 1924, after the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, it was renamed the USSR Diamond Fund.
New uses for diamonds were found in the 20th century, the century of swift industrial development and scientific and technological progress. These super-hard stones have become vital for intricate technical problems, the diamond becoming a symbol of technical progress and a major means of increasing labour productivity.
The development of most branches of modern industry, including metal-working, machine-building, mining and precision mechanics, is inconceivable without the use of diamonds. To a large extent this explains the desire of all industrially developed countries to enlarge their stocks of diamonds. At one time diamonds were on the list of strategic goods whose sale to the USSR was prohibited. This was an attempt to induce a diamond shortage in the Soviet Union and hinder its technical progress. As in many other cases, this attempt of the imperialist monopolies to hold up Soviet economic development failed utterly.
Thanks to the constant concern of the Communist Party and the Soviet Government to promote the rapid industrial growth of the Soviet Union it became possible to tap fabulous mineral wealth.
In face of extremely difficult natural conditions Soviet geologists discovered staggeringly rich diamond deposits in Siberia, thus making the Soviet Union a diamond producer.
The whole world has heard of the discovery of the Mir, Udachnaya and Aikhal diamond pipes in Yakutia, and of the appearance of the town of Mirny, capital of the Soviet Union's diamond-bearing region.
The steady growth of the output of diamonds in the Soviet Union has made it possible to increase the output and utilisation of diamond-tipped instruments. Soviet industry stopped being dependent on the import of diamonds, for the Soviet Union itself became an exporter of this critical mineral. Today large numbers of big and unique diamonds found in the Soviet Union are flowing steadily into the USSR Diamond Fund. Some of the diamonds on display at the Exhibition have been given names that tell the history of their discovery.
The diamonds Voskhod (Sunrise) and Valentina Tereshkova were found during the days when Soviet cosmonauts were accomplishing breath-taking flights in outer space. Two other diamonds, called Oktyabrsky and Komsomolsky were found by Komsomol members. The diamond Zlata Praha was found on the anniversary of Prague's liberation from the nazi invaders. Pokorenny (Harnessed) Vilyui was named after a Russian river and those who tamed its cold waters. Sulus in Yakutian means a star, while Luchezarny (Radiant) mirrors the bright Siberian sun.
The Soviet Government is continuing to promote the diamond-mining industry, which is growing at a rapid rate.
Soviet scientists are in the forefront in evolving the science treating of diamonds. The Soviet theory of the origin of diamonds has been confirmed by geological work in the field. The Siberian deposits were the first to be discovered not accidentally but on the basis of a scientific forecast with the utilisation of new geological methods. Moreover, Soviet scientists have resolved the problem of producing superior synthetic diamonds, which are being used in industry on a growing scale.
A scientific system of grading has been developed to make it possible correctly to assess diamonds and determine the sphere where they can be used with the greatest effect, and an industry of preliminary processing of diamonds has been built to improve the quality of low-grade diamonds and utilise them more effectively.
An up-to-date diamond industry resting on extensive resources has been built in the Soviet Union within an exceedingly short span of time. The Lapidary Works in Smolensk is one of the world's most modern and largest enterprises processing jewellers' diamonds. It uses first-class machinery and employs skilful diamond cutters. Soviet jewellers now have the possibility of giving diamonds the most diverse shapes and types of facets. The cutting at this Works satisfies the highest modern requirements and the brilliants processed here are in great demand in the Soviet Union and abroad. Soviet-made jewelry is represented in this album by reproductions of objects of precious metals inlaid with gems made at works in Moscow, Smolensk and Leningrad.
Also in the album are reproductions of exhibits from the world's rarest collection of gold and platinum nuggets.
This collection is of exceptional scientific interest because it consists of nuggets found in the Soviet Union over a period of many decades. With the exception of a small number, they were found after the Revolution. They include the famous Big Triangle (36 kilos — the largest in the world), the Big Tyelginsky (14 kilos) and the curiously-shaped Camel, Rabbit's Ears and Mephistopheles, in which nature vies in expression with works of art.
Without exaggerating, it may be said that no national collection of gold nuggets has such a rich diversity of structural and crystalline formations as the Soviet State Collection.
One of the largest platinum nuggets, which occur very rarely, is shown in the album.
During the early years after the Revolution, the Western press, whiteguard newspapers in particular, began spreading the rumour that the Bolsheviks were plundering Russian crown jewels. The purpose of this rumour was to make people throughout the world believe that the Bolsheviks were barbarians and that the Revolution was wreaking havoc in the country. But led by the Bolshevik Party, the people, who overthrew the capitalists and landlords and took power into their own hands, not only safeguarded historic treasures but also created other, more valuable treasures despite the economic dislocation caused by the Civil War and the foreign intervention.
In reply to anti-Soviet propaganda, the crown jewels of the former Russian tsars were, on instructions from Lenin personally, put on public display in the Hall of Columns at the House of Trade Unions in Moscow in 1924. In the fifties when the discovery of diamonds in Siberia was reported, the foreign press wrote that Russian diamonds would appear in the world market not earlier than in the 21st century, because these diamond deposits were situated in remote uninhabited places thousands of kilometres distant from industrial centres and railways.
But what seemed to be unrealistic was translated into reality. Led by the Communist Party and the Soviet Government the Soviet people scored yet another achievement, creating one of the world's largest and modern diamond-mining industries on the Pole of Cold. The development of these deposits is a major scientific victory and a great achievement, which put an end to the diamond monopoly of the capitalist countries. The Soviet Union began mining diamonds and selling them in the world market not in the 21st century but only a few years after the bucket of an excavator scooped up its first load of virgin land in Siberia. The land gave its wealth to the people, to its real master.
The infinite number of sparkling crystals in the USSR Diamond Fund, like the other achievements of the Soviet Union, reflect the dedicated labour of Soviet people and their constant striving to do everything in their power to promote the happiness and prosperity of their country.
<- предыдущая страница следующая ->