Russian Treasures – As mentioned in The New York Times

… form of a miniature samovar, circa 1900.


Antiques: Russian Treasures

Source: The New York Times, December 19, 2003

By Wendy Moonan.

Excerpted from The New York Times, December 19, 2003. Page E41.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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Highlights of the 2014 Winter Antiques Show


The Winter Antiques Show is certainly living up to its name this year, welcomed by this polar vortex with a chilly embrace. Rest assured, the Park Avenue Armory is nice and toasty. It is well worth braving the cold – there is something for everyone from ancient to modern, including: Delftware, Chinese porcelain, illuminated manuscripts, arms and armor, ancient art, and so much more, all listed here.

Be on the lookout for some of our personal favorites, including the astonishing mid sixteenth century Italian half suit of armor from Peter Finer of London and the 18th century Delftware puzzle jugs from Aronson of Amsterdam. If the crowds get to be too much, escape into the lacquer-paneled room by Art Deco master Jean Dunand at Maison Gerard, and be sure to take a moment to behold a fully intact, Roman glass urn from the 1st century AD at Rupert Wace Ancient Art of London.

If you get lost as you wander across culture and time, our booth can be found at the center across from the Diamond Jubilee display. There are a few pieces that have attracted particular attention at our booth. One of our showstoppers is a brooch designed by Salvador Dali in the form of ruby red lips, modeled after Marilyn Monroe, and, includes, quite literally, pearly whites. Selections from our menagerie have also been major attractions, such as a pavé diamond brooch in the form of a monkey with a sprung tail and holding a pearl. Our selection of Fabergé always draws attention. Especially attracting people this year are silver sculptures serving as table lighters or bell pushes.

If you have yet to stop by, we look forward to seeing you this Saturday from 12 to 8, and Sunday, the final day, from 12 to 6.

Cartier, New York, Gold-Ribbed Cufflinks set with Calibre Sapphires


Pair of Cartier gold-ribbed cufflinks, set on one side with calibre sapphires.

Cartier, New York, ca. 1945


Cartier, New York, Gold-Ribbed Cufflinks set with Calibre Sapphires, back

Victorian Coach Cover Earrings


Victorian European cut diamond drop earrings with gold and black enamel spherical “coach covers.” Also known as “opera covers,” the covers concealed the valuable diamonds while traveling, such as a night out at the opera.

Retailed by the London firm Hunt & Roskell, formerly Storr & Mortimer, with original box.
Circa 1880.


The firm Hunt & Roskell dates back to the early 19th century, when Paul Storr established his firm Storr & Co. in 1819. Within a few years he partnered first with John Mortimer, followed soon after by John Samuel Hunt. When Storr retired in 1838, the firm was renamed Mortimer & Hunt. Upon Mortimer’s retirement in 1843, the firm became Hunt & Roskell. At this time the firm comprised John Samuel Hunt and his son John Hunt, Robert Roskell Jn. (son of the Liverpool watchmaker Robert Roskell), and Charles Frederick Hancock. The firm increasingly gained recognition over the years, making jewelry for Queen Victoria and exhibiting in the 1851 London Great Exhibition and many others, including New York in 1851 and Paris in 1867.

diamond drop earrings that go with the Victorian gold and enamel coach coversbox view, Victorian Coach Cover Earrings

Edwardian Jeweled Japonisme Corsage Pendant Brooch


Edwardian era jeweled “Japonisme” corsage pendant brooch with three shakudo-esque lacquer panels surrounded by diamonds, further decorated with garlands, bowknots, and diamond tassels, set in platinum.

American, possibly Dreicer & Co.
New York, ca. 1914
Length: 6 inches

back view, Edwardian Jeweled Japonisme Corsage Pendant Broochupper half detail view, Edwardian Jeweled Japonisme Corsage Pendant Broochbottom half detail view, Edwardian Jeweled Japonisme Corsage Pendant Brooch

ALVR Blog:
Russian Teatime Traditions

Russian Tea Drinkers from chatterbox magazine
From “Russian Tea-houses and Tea-drinkers” in Chatterbox, 1867

How greatly tea is used in England by every class of society, we all know… But greatly as tea is used in England, it is still in Russia more common. From the palaces of the great and wealthy nobles, down to the wretched hovels of the poor peasants, tea is the universal beverage. – James F. Cobb

James F. Cobb noted the significance of tea in Russian culture in his 1867 article “Russian Tea-houses and Tea-drinkers” for the English publication Chatterbox.  While Mr. Cobb noted that British tea culture has its own interesting history and customs, Russian culture is steeped in its own rich tea traditions.

Pictured right: Gilded silver teapot with the Imperial Eagle. St. Petersburg, ca. 1785Gilded Silver Imperial Teapot with Russian Imperial Eagle

Russian tea’s status as a national beverage was slow to brew. When it was first introduced in the seventeenth century, Russians were skeptical. This early tea was very different from the tea drunk today. The tea was in a brick form, which was smashed and mixed with grain and butter, and then consumed as both a meal and beverage.

In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796), tea consumption increased slightly, but it remained expensive and rare, confining its consumption to the Russian aristocracy who used it primarily for medicinal purposes.

Russian Cloisonné Enamel Teapot and Silver Napkin Ring with Imperial MonogramIt was not until late in the nineteenth century that tea became a national beverage consumed by all classes. By this time, the cost of tea had decreased by half, and thus more widely accessible. Also by this time, Russian tea, and its customs and material culture, became associated with national identity thanks to the work of the country’s most revered writers. Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Checkov wrote about tea as a part of everyday life, celebrating the samovar in particular as a symbol of Russianness.

Pictured left: Gilded silver and cloisonné enamel teapot. Moscow, ca. 1900

Some scholars speculate that the samovar is actually an English invention, as both the English and Dutch made the earliest vessels for brewing tea and coffee in the late seventeenth century. The first samovar likely came to Russia in the early eighteenth century, taken by Peter the Great as one of many aspects of western culture he hoped to emulate to modernize Russia. The technology of the samovar better suited a Russian home, which was heated with a large stove, instead of an open fireplace to easily boil water. It is not the samovar itself that makes Russian tea. Rather, the samovar dispenses boiled water for diluting the concentrated tea, which is brewed in a small teapot, or zavarka, as shown in the introductory illustration.

main view, Antique Russian Lacquer Tray

Pictured above: antique Russian lacquer tray depicting peasants drinking tea. By the Lukutin Factory, Moscow, 1888-1894.

By the turn-of-the-century, the invented tradition of Russian tea was an integral part of Russian identity. For Russians, the day began and ended with tea. In the morning it was enjoyed with sweet buns, plain rolls, or bread with butter and maybe a little cheese. A few hours after dinner was vecherny tchai, or evening tea consumed with various cold cuts, cheeses, small cakes and candied fruits.

Tea was enjoyed inside and out of the home. In the nineteenth century men congregated in teahouses according to their class – ones for wealthy merchants and others for their carriage drivers. The gendering of Russian tea culture was delineated by these establishments and also by objects. Men drank their tea from a glass set in an elaborately ornamented metal holder, like the one picture below, while women drank their tea from a cup.

Antique Russian Enamel Tea Glass Holder

Pictured: Gilded silver and cloisonné enamel tea glass holder. By the 11th Artel, Moscow, ca. 1910.

Regardless of how much Russian tea customs are the product of nineteenth-century nationalism, beautiful works of art, like the tea glass holder and teapots illustrated in this post, attest to the significance of tea in Russian culture, past and present…even if that past is not so long ago.

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Cobb, James F.  “Russian Tea-houses and Tea-drinkers.” Chatterbox. London, 1867.

Hardie, Anne-Marie. “Exploring the Origins of Russian Tea Culture.” The Daily Tea. August 6, 2015. Accessed August 12, 2015.

Jones, Catherine Cheremeteff. A Year of Russian Feasts. Bethesda, Md: Jellyroll Press, 2002.

Papashivily, Helen and George. The Cooking of Russia. New York: Time-Life Books, 1972.

Yoder, Audra Jo. “Myth and Memory in Russian Tea Culture.” Studies in Slavic Cultures. August 8, 2009.

Fabergé Miniature Samovar Lighter


Gilded silver miniature samovar table lighter with ebony handles and knobs, two removable lighters, and a fitted central wick.

Fabergé, workmaster Anders Nevaleinen.
St. Petersburg, Russia, 1896-1908.
Height: 5-3/4 in.

Provenance: The Forbes Magazine Collection, New York

Antique Tiffany & Co. Carved Moonstone and Diamond Brooch


Carved moonstone and diamond brooch set in platinum. The moonstone  is of exceptional size, measuring 1-3/4 inches in diameter.

Tiffany & Co, New York, ca. 1905.
Diameter: 2 inches

other view, Carved Moonstone and Diamond Brooch by Tiffany & Co.

Vintage 1950s Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. Peridot and Diamond Brooch


Bombé peridot brooch set with three diamond flowers, set in gold.

By Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., ca. 1950.
Length: 1 1/2 inches

French jeweler Jean Schlumberger (1907-1987) is known for creating playful, artistic jewels inspired by his love of the natural world. His talent attracted the attention of Tiffany & Co., who invited him to open a design studio and salon within their New York store in 1956.


This brooch appears in our Schlumberger video on our videos page.

side view, Peridot and Diamond Brooch by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.back view, Peridot and Diamond Brooch by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.

Antique Tiffany & Co. Diamond Bracelet


Platinum bracelet set with pointed oval-cut and French-cut diamonds.

Tiffany & Co., New York, ca. 1910.
Length: 7 inches

other view, Antique Diamond Bracelet by Tiffany & Co.

Peridot, Diamond, and Sapphire Earrings by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.


Peridot and sapphire thistle earrings, each set with a brilliant-cut diamond.

By Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co., ca. 1950.
Width: 7/8 inches


These are available for purchase in the ALVR shop.

French jeweler Jean Schlumberger (1907-1987) is known for creating playful, artistic jewels inspired by his love of the natural world. His talent attracted the attention of Tiffany & Co., who invited him to open a design studio and salon within their New York store in 1956.

These earrings appear in our Schlumberger video on our videos page.

side view, Peridot, Diamond, and Sapphire Earrings by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.model wearing peridot, sapphire, and diamond earrings by Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co.

ALVR Blog: The Legend of Sadko


Once upon a time, in late nineteenth century Russia, there was renewed interest in Russia’s past, and with that, a fascination with Russian fairy tales. This fascination transcended all art forms, from literature and theater to decorative arts. A ceramic charger in A La Vieille Russie’s collection brings this fairytale dream world to life. Executed in the Art Nouveau style, it features scenes from the eleventh- century Novgorod legend of Sadko.*

main view of ceramic charger depicting scenes from the legend of sadko

The oval central section depicts a grotesque octopus-like creature, the rim with Sadko on the right, playing a stringed instrument to three women (left) in diaphanous gowns and jeweled headpieces, on a moonlit shore, with bands of stylized motifs. Designed by Mikhail Vrubel and made by the Kuznetsov Porcelain Factory for the Imperial court.
Russian, 1889-1900.
Width: 28-1/2 inches; height: 24-1/2 inches

As the legend goes, one day a lonely and melancholic Sadko serenades the River Volkhov, proclaiming, “Rich man, poor man—it’s all the same to you. If only you were a woman! I’d marry you and live with you here in the city I love.” His music reaches the bottom of the river, so charming the King of the Sea that he rises to the river’s surface to invite Sadko to play at his palace feast.  As a reward, the King gives Sadko a fish with golden scales.

“Your Majesty, you are too generous!”

“Say no more about it! said the King. “Music is worth far more than gold. If the world were fair, you’d have your fill of riches!”

Sadko quickly sells the golden fish before commencing his journey to the palace deep beneath the ocean waves. Once there, Sadko’s music pleases the King of the Sea so much that he offers one of his daughters in marriage. Sadko chooses a bride, but is warned by the Queen that the slightest embrace will trap him beneath the sea forever, never to return to his beloved Novgorod. With this in mind, Sadko resists the Princess’s charms and awakens to find himself back in Novgorod.

Was it all a dream? Who knows? Sadko lived a good life in Novgorod – he became a wealthy merchant, married, and raised a family. While life was good, he never really forgot what lay beneath the River Volkhov.

“Sometimes still on a quiet evening he would walk out of the city alone, sit on the bank, and send his tinkling music over the water. And sometimes too a lovely head would rise from the river to listen—or perhaps it was only moonlight on the Volkhov.”

Legend has it that the Princess of the Sea can be seen at A La Vieille Russie, where the unusual is usual.TM See her for yourself, for more than an ephemeral glance, at 745 Fifth Avenue.

The end.

*excerpts from Aaron Shepard, The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend. New York: Atheneum, 1997. (accessed 7/21/20)

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