1stdibs

Antique Russian Malachite Pietra Dure Jewelry Box, Casket, Box

One can't visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg without marveling at the exquisite and repeated use of fine Russian malachite stone veneers on pedestals, clocks and bases, candle stands and Imperial eggs; snuff boxes, obelisk, and fine old jewelry items. And the marbling of that fine semiprecious stone, ranging from the pale greens of early Spring grass to the deepest rich greens of emeralds and beyond is the reason those items of French origin and Russian origin are so breathtaking, even today. So it is with great pleasure we present this 19th century Russian malachite jewelry box. One wonders if it's a French made box, when upon opening you see that typically French deep tuck/tufted silk padded interior lining. Yet you can't be a student of St. Petersburg without knowing how greatly the Tsars from Peter to Nicholas were aesthetically influenced by the French, either. So we are quite certain this is a box of French influence but of Russian craftsmanship, making excellent use of the veneers which were, perhaps, the cutaways and scraps from the grand pieces aforementioned. Isn't it a stunning old thing! And in very good form for age and type. We believe it is early to mid-1800s, Louis Philippe to the earliest days of the reign of Emperor Louis Napoleon, or 'Napoleon III'. Surely well before the time of Tzar Nicholas II, and so in the time of his father, Alexander III, the Tsar under whose aesthetic eye the works of Peter Karl Faberge's wonderful works came to fashion and fame. One can only wonder to whom this beautiful box first belonged, but it would have been right at home in any of the magnificent palaces of St. Petersburg. Alas, the key has not stayed with it through the century and a half or more since it was crafted. So often these casket locks are quite standard and it's usually not difficult to locate a key that will work in the lock, but our own stash of keys is low at present and we haven't one to fit at listing time. Will continue to try to match one up, though.

Good to very good condition for age and type. The veneers are beautiful old stone, but have a little bit of a mosaic-fitted look to them almost as if they were put together of the cuttings from some larger and important work. I don't know how to account for this unique and interesting method, but I suspect it has a very interesting story to tell, were it capable of it. Perhaps it has been restored after having been damaged in, perhaps, WWI or WWII and/or any number of Russian uprisings in the years since it was initially crafted. You can see in our detailed image of the box's top, the panels have a bit of a shattered look. The interior is excellent, however, and has been exquisitely done, as fine as any. The box is very heavy, telling us the malachite slabs are thick cuttings.