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In the spring of 1922, a committee appointed by the new government and headed by A.E. Fersman, a mineralogist and member of the Academy of Sciences, examined nine strong boxes containing jewels seized from the Imperial collections at the time of the revolution.

The complete and thorough inventory that they produced lists 406 items set with precious stones, including 25,300 carats of diamonds alone, and apart from providing detailed technical and artistic descriptions, the committee attempted to place each piece in its historical context by means of accompanying essays.

The resulting work, Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones, was issued in a limited
edition run of four volumes in Russian, English and French, each illustrated with 25 photographic plates.

It is an extraordinary document, and not just for the fabulous array of jewels that it revealed for the first time to a wider and very different world. To quote the Sotheby’s
cataloguer, it is also a document which reveals “the palpable sense of astonishment and excitement” displayed by those who were seeing this aspect of imperial wealth for the first time. This set was sold for £28,000.

An 1867 Christie’s catalogue for the 1867 sale of the Celebrated Esterhazy Jewels was bid to £600; a 1911 Paris sale catalogue of pearls, precious stones and other objets d’art in the collection of ...Sultan Abd-el-Hamid reached £1600 and a 1920 Lausanne catalogue for the sale of the
jewels of Madame la Princess Lobanoff de Rostoff, nee Princesse Dolgorouky, went for that same sum.

A copy of Eugène Fontenay’s Les Bijoux Anciens et Modernes, published in Paris in 1887, was sold at £1000.

Buyer’s premium: 20/15/10 per cent