The Armoury is part of the general complex known as the Moscow Kremlin Museums. One of the oldest museums in Russia, it is a unique treasure trove of applied art from all over the world, dating from the fourth to the twenty-first centuries. Many of these works are not only of great artistic value. They are also of tremendous historical importance, linked to some of the leading figures and events in Russian history.

The collection of Russian jewellery is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, covering almost an entire millennium in the history of art. The masterpieces embrace every period in the history of Russian jewellery, showcasing the breathtaking array of techniques and remarkable mastery of the Russian gold and silversmiths.

The earliest works in the collection of Russian jewellery date from the feudal period before the Mongol invasion. In 1132, following the death of Grand Prince Mstislav, Kievan Rus split up a dozen small, independent states. The Armoury owns works made by the masters of such medieval princedoms as Kiev, Chernihiv, Rostov-Suzdal, Vladimir and the feudal republic of Novgorod.

A large part of the collection consists of works made by talented masters for the grand princes and tsars of Muscovy. Skilled craftsmen were invited from all over Russia to work at the Kremlin in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Over the years, their remarkable creations decorated palaces, cathedrals and monasteries. Precious objects were brought out from the royal exchequer on all solemn occasions – coronations of grand princes and tsars, important church services, receptions of foreign ambassadors and banquets.

When Peter the Great founded the new Russian capital of St Petersburg, many of the masters were relocated to the city on the Neva. The Kremlin workshops gradually fell into decline. In 1727, they were united in one common structure known as the Workshop and Armoury, which became the custodian of all the artistic and historical valuables in the Kremlin. The Workshop and Armoury continued to acquire new works of jewellery, forming the basis for the collection dating from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

In 1806, Tsar Alexander I signed a decree regulating the work of the Workshop and Armoury, paving the way for the formation of a museum, which was known simply as the Armoury. Between 1844 and 1851, Konstantin Thon designed a special building in the Kremlin to house the new museum, which the Armoury still occupies to this day. Throughout the nineteenth century, the museum was awarded works of Russian jewellery discovered during archaeological excavations or acquired from private collections.

The Armoury owns an extensive collection of Russian jewellery dating from the turn of the century. The names of such outstanding masters as Carl Fabergé, Pavel Ovchinnikov, Ivan Khlebnikov and Nikolai Nemirov-Kolodkin brought international fame to Russian jewellery, becoming symbols of the period of glittering achievement known as the Silver Age of Russian culture.

The collection of Russian fin-de-siècle jewellery took shape in the years immediately following the revolution. This body of works is based on the creations of such court jewellers and official purveyors to the Russian tsars as Carl Fabergé, Friedrich Christian Kochly and Carl Blank, who worked on court commissions for the last two emperors and their wives – Tsar Alexander III and Maria Fyodorovna and Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna.

In 1927, the Armoury inherited works once belonging to the last Romanovs. The collection continued to grow through acquisitions by government organisations, private donations and the museum’s own purchasing commission. The result was the formation of a wide body of works of Russian jewellery, ranging from mass-produced trinkets, adornments, cutlery and table silverware to unique masterpieces linked to the history of Russia.

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