Russian silver is very popular among collectors of antiques, given the unique designs and history of the artifacts. One unique feature of Russian silver, by no means on every design, is the enamel used to enhance the attractiveness of the silver.
Russian Silver Standard
While the term “Russian sterling silver” is sometimes used to describe Russian silver pieces, the term is actually a misnomer, since the Russian silver standards have differed from the British sterling silver standard of .925 fineness or purity. The most common Russian silver standard is 84 zolotnik, which is .875 purity, with the remainder being copper. Another common silver standard from Russia is zolotnik 88, of .916 purity. The zolotnik is a weight measure no longer in use, though collectors of Russian silver should be aware of the hallmarks associated with the measure. Antique Russian silver is often hallmarked with 84 or .875 to denote this standard of purity. Along with this standard of purity, Russian silver typically features a hallmark from the assayer and another indicating the city in which it was manufactured or assayed.
Russian Communist Silver
During the Soviet communist era, Russian silver was produced in large quantities showing distinctive designs, many of which are enameled. Souvenir silver spoons were commonly mass produced in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Many of these spoons are gilded or have a gold wash. During this period, the hammer and sickle hallmark was added, symbolizing the communist ideology of the Soviet Union. This communist symbol has built interest among many collectors of antiques, as a relic of the Cold War. Because communist silver was mass produced, it is one of the most affordable types of antique silver for collectors to obtain.
Czarist Russian Silver
Russian silver from the era of the czars is among the most highly sought after, but because of its rarity is more commonly counterfeited. The Russian silver of this era is renowned for the use of bright colored enamel, and is generally regarded as the artistic peak of silversmithing in the nation. The patronage of the monarchs fostered creativity among the silversmiths, bringing about levels of craftsmanship that have enthralled collectors to this day.
Because of how common the counterfeits of this era are on the market, collectors must be very cautious about their purchases of silver from this era, and should be intimately familiar with their designs and hallmarks.
Among the most famous jewelers was Peter Carl Fabergé, who famously designed Easter-style eggs for the imperial family of Russia using precious metals and gems. The Fabergé family was of Huguenot descent, having fled France and ended up in Russia, and rising in prominence as jewelers. The family founded the House of Fabergé, which at its peak had about 500 craftsmen and designers and received international acclaim. During the Russian Revolution, the company was nationalized by the Bolsheviks, and Peter Carl Fabergé fled to Western Europe. He died in 1920, just three years after the Revolution. Today, the Fabergé brand name is still prominent globally for various types of products, having been resold numerous times since the death of Peter Carl Fabergé.