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Russian Crown Jewels: Hidden Treasures in the USGS Libraries

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Romanov Jewels
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Russian Crown Jewels: Hidden Treasures in the USGS Libraries

  1. 1. U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey
  2. 2. Breaking the News • December 18, 2012 – USGS Press Release “Tracking the Story of the Russian Crown Jewels” – Included a 4 minute podcast called “Diamonds and Dusty Pages – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8xPZ7txy-3w • December 30, 2012 – National Public Radio Weekend Edition aired a 4:41 radio story called “The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Russian Crown Jewels” – http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist= false&id=168219426&m=168292498
  3. 3. The Kunz Collection In the rare book room of the U.S. Geological Survey Library in Reston, VA resides the personal library of George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932). Kunz was a preeminent mineralogist and gemologist, an employee of the USGS, and a prolific writer. His library contains numerous rare and valuable books dating back to as early as the beginning of the 16th century. Photos of George Frederick Kunz working with kunzite which was discovered by and named after him. Taken from one of his original scrapbooks titled “Photographs of Kunzite”.
  4. 4. Photographic Album (1922) • Discovered while looking for items in the public domain (prior to 1923) for potential library digitization projects • Initial realization was not that this was rare or important, simply that the images were beautiful.
  5. 5. Photographic Album (1922) “Russian Diamond Fund” “NKF Governmental Repository Unknown artist’s “Moscow-1922” of Valuables” signature
  6. 6. Russian Diamond Fund Photographic Album (1922) • Consists of a hand-colored title page (previous slide) and 59 pages on which are pasted 81 original photographs depicting Romanov jewels. • 22 photos (some cut from larger images) appear to have been used for prints in Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones. • 60 of the photos show jewels depicted in Russia’s Treasures from different angles. • 4 photos show jewelry not included in Russia’s Treasures.
  7. 7. Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones (1925) • “Rediscovered” in the Kunz collection. Complete except for plates LI and LII. • Consists of 100 plates with accompanying text which inventory the Romanov jewels. • In 2007 a copy of this catalog sold on auction for $141,984 (http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=4928114) • Some of these jewels were sold by the Soviet government shortly after this inventory was created. To this day the locations of many of the jewels are still unknown.
  8. 8. Origins of Album & Catalog It is unknown how Kunz came to possess these volumes. He saw the jewels personally: The Winter Palace treasures, the Orlov diamond, the red diamond of Emperor Paul, the great pearls and other magnificent jewels were shown to me by the courtesy of the Imperial Chamberlain, Prince Putjatzin on January 15, 1891. (Kunz, 1919) A series of letters between Kunz and the American Museum of Natural History indicate that he had copies made of the album’s photographs in October of 1923, barely more than a year after the jewels were unboxed and photographed. Kunz’s collection also contains a number of newspaper clippings from the early 1920s regarding the jewels and an auction catalogue from Messrs. Christie, Manson & Woods (1927) detailing the sale of 124 lots of Russian royal jewelry.
  9. 9. Examples of identical images 1922 photo 1925 print 1922 photo 1925 print 1922 photo 1925 print
  10. 10. Examples of differing images 1922 photo 1922 photo 1925 print 1925 print
  11. 11. Photograph quality and image cleaning After scanning the raw images with a PS7000C MKII scanner at 400 dpi, Adobe Photoshop was used to clean and optimize the Note the discoloration on the images. background of the unaltered photograph.
  12. 12. Russian Royal Jewels Photograph from Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones. Indicated from left to right: Photos 1, 2, and 4.
  13. 13. Unique Photo 1 Entry from Selling Russia's Treasures, Nicolas Iljine, Natalya Semyonova, 2000 Appendix II. 1922 photo – caption reads: “Brooch bow with large sapphire”
  14. 14. Unique Photo 2 1922 photo – caption reads “bracelet with sapphires”. So far no references to it have been identified.
  15. 15. Unique Photo 3 1922 photo – caption reads “necklace with emeralds”. So far no references to it have been identified.
  16. 16. Unique Photo 4 This study done by Nicholas Chevalier possibly represents the same tiara as one of the jewels worn by the Tsarevna at the marriage of Prince 1922 photo – caption reads “diamond tiara with nine Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and the Grand Duchess large sapphires, the largest weighing 34.2 m/k.” No Marie Alexandrovna of Russia in 1874 record of it being sold has been located, nor has any (Munn, 2001, 287). The design of the central record of it been located in the Russian Diamond portion appears identical to the Fund today. photograph, although the sketch shows a pearl frame and solid (possibly velvet) backing to the tiara.
  17. 17. The Album Today • The album is currently on loan to the Hillwood Museum for an exhibition on the Romanov Family and their Coronations • “Pageant of the Tsars” runs through June 8, 2013 • Hillwood was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post and today is a house museum designed to inspire and educate the public. • Hillwood contains the most comprehensive collection of Russian imperial art outside of Russia, including some pieces from the Russian Crown Jewels
  18. 18. Special Thanks We would like to the Gemological Institute of America, the American Museum of Natural History, the Corcoran Gallery of Art Hillwood Museum and the Smithsonian Institution for their assistance on this project. We would also like to thank Mrs. Christel McCanless and Mrs. Annemiek Wintraecken for their research and support. Richard Huffine, Library Director (rhuffine@usgs.gov) Jenna Nolt, Digital Services Librarian (jnolt@usgs.gov) Libraries Program, United States Geological Survey References • Fersman, A. E. (1925). Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones. Moscow: People’s Commissariat of Finances. • Iljine, Nicolas & Semyonova, Natalya. (2000). Selling Russia's Treasures.: The Story of the Sale of Russian National Art Treasures Confiscated from the Tsarist Royal Family, the Church, Private Individuals and Museums in the USSR in 1918 – 1937. Moscow: Trefoil Press. • Kunz, George Frederick. (1919). The Crown Jewels of Russia. Lotus Magazine; v. 10, p. 288-292. • Munn, Geoffrey C. (2001). Tiaras: A History of Splendor. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club.

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