We’re just back from our Walking Tour of St. Petersburg Jewelers tour. This glorious city of the Russian tsars continues to yield a font of pleasant surprises and wonderful new discoveries.
Fresh off the plane (quite literally for two of our guests) we shot off to the magnificent Yusupov Palace for our first private tour. The interiors were as impressive as our animated guide who recounted the story of the fabulously wealthy Yusupov family. Then, at the very site where Rasputin met his fate, we saw the basement rooms with mannequins of the aristocratic murderers and the monk himself in wax. The private theater was marvelous, and for the first time, a special jeweled surprise awaited us (more on that soon).
Then we were off to the fabulous Gold Treasury room in the Hermitage Museum, one of the most important ancient gold treasures in the world.
Here we were in one of the world’s most popular and crowded museums, but in the Gold Treasury Room, we were alone with our guide and free to marvel unhurried at the exuberant burial treasures: horse harnesses, scabbards, headdresses adorned with cabochon stones, lions, coiled leopards and large stags, sphinxes and a fighting stylized panther with articulated tail and bared teeth – all in glittering pure gold.
The techniques of the ancient goldsmiths were utterly amazing, with their fine granulation and delicate repoussé work done solely by hand. A near impossible feat in today’s technological world.
My favorite piece was a crown made for a Sarmatian queen set with cabochon garnets, 1st or 2nd century A.D. (the Sarmatians were nomadic successors to the Scythians in Southern Russia).
These gold burial treasures prompted Carl Fabergé to try to make exact copies, after seeing them arrive from the Crimea in the 1880s. As court appraiser to the Hermitage he had direct access to this treasure trove. But in my mind no jeweler past or present could ever match the perfection of these pieces.
We couldn’t take pictures, but the memory lives on.
Another first was an enchanting visit to Tsarskoe Selo, a magnificent complex of imperial palaces in the town of Pushkin, home of the Catherine Palace built for the first Catherine, wife of Peter the Great.
Built by Bartolomeo Rastrelli it houses some of the most extravagant interiors in Europe, including the world-famous Amber Room. A stroll through the palace gardens in the snow complemented our vision of the imperial Russian winter’s lasting hold.
My thanks to the all the museum curators, city historians and tour guides, translators, and to Dmitry, our private bus driver, who made this trip so memorable. I am also grateful to our fabulous tour guests for joining us on our walking tour of St. Petersburg and for being so utterly delightful.
And, of course, we look forward to all of the upcoming adventures we have planned for 2022 and 2023.