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The Jewels of St Petersburg

Having just come back from the Third International Faberge Symposium, held this week at the newly opened Faberge Museum – I feel in a better position to give you more detail about the trip to St Petersburg in February 2015. Russia may be suffering a bout of bad press, but St Petersburg is thriving.

In December the 250th Anniversary of the Hermitage will be celebrated on St Catherine’s day, the saints day of its founder Catherine the Great.

This year the Four Seasons Hotel opened, the new private Faberge museum opened – both after years of building work and restoration in highly prized pre Revolutionary palaces.

The General Staff building opened its doors to contemporary art, moving the famous Matisse paintings from the Winter Palace to the new contemporary wing, together with the Hermitage version of Malevich’s Black Square (the Russian Museum’s version is on exhibition in London at the Tate at the moment).

I chose to focus on “Jewels of St Petersburg” because so many people are amazed by the exquisite architecture of St Petersburg, it is important to draw the visitors attention to the incredible materials used in the building of the city, as well as some of the marvels created for both Tsars and Soviet leaders from Russia’s precious stones and metals.

On our tour, therefore, we will visit the Mining Institute and the Geological institute, which not only gives the visitor an insight to the vastness of the land of Russia but also to the wealth and quantity of their natural resources.

We shall see the interiors of St Isaacs Cathedral, furnished with semi
precious stones in vast quantities, the Church of the Spilt Blood, an ornate example of gold mosaics; the Agate Pavilion and the Amber Room at the Catherine Palace, both now restored post WWII damage, by masters of present day Russia with raw materials from Siberia and the Baltics.

In the Hermitage we shall see the ancient (400 BC) collection of Scythian Gold from the Black Sea, exquisite examples of gold jewellery and animal symbols, also the Diamond Vaults with the jewel encrusted snuff boxes, brooches, walking sticks, swords and Faberge miniatures of the Tsars.  As Friends of the Hermitage we will have the opportunity to visit curators special collections and have the expert knowledge of these academics explain to us the importance of the collection.

In the Ethnographic Museum, we shall have a private tour of the many jewels and costumes presented by the peoples of Russia to the Tsar on the celebration of 300 years of the Romanov family in 1913. Coral, turquoise, shells, silver, rubies and gold all in ethnic designs as according to their tribal customs.  Also in this museum is a rare collection of exquisitely carved bone from the Arctic circle Inuit tribes.

The icons on display in the Russian Museum show the wealth of the Church and the artistry of the simple icon form.

I also hope to visit a couple of contemporary jewellery makers in the city, as well as restoration studios.

My own personal treasure, The Galitzine Library, celebrates 20 years this October and has been described as a ‘pearl’ and an oasis.  The treasures within it lies in the pages of the books and the preservation and discovery of lost Russian history.

Discover the splendour of the St Petersburg with Princess Katya Galitzine on our expert led tour in February 2015.

Written by our Steppes Travel Expert Tour Leader Princess Katya Galitzine.