Catherine the Great and her ambitions with Art and jewellery

 

Some are fashion divas and others are jewellery trend setters. But Catharine the Great of Russia used Art and Culture as a powerful tool to develop Russia. How jewellery, gemstones and art became essential to the Grandeur of Russia.

 

Catharina the GreatIn Russia, the fortune of Catherine II (1729-1796) was managed like a state possession, proof of the power of this exceptional woman. When the young German, Sophia Frederica Augusta, princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, arrived in Russia to get engaged to the duke of Holstein, nephew of Peter the Great and heir to the Empress Elizabeth, nobody could have guessed that she would one day reign alone over the immense empire. Right from her youth she learnt Russian, converted to the orthodox religion, read Voltaire, Montesquieu, Plato and many other philosophers. In 1762 she married Peter III, the heir to the throne. He was unfaithful to her and she tried to overthrow him with the help of her lover, Grigory Orlov.

However, it was Alexey, Grigory’s brother, who assassinated Peter III. Proclaimed Empress, she surrounded herself with the west’s best councillors such as the Baron Grimm and developed her country thanks to her contacts such as Voltaire. She conducted a real policy of culture and art, asserted her sovereignty over the people and projected an image of a great empire. She introduced French at Court and avoided speaking her mother tongue German. Passionate about precious stones, she acquired a collection comparable to that of France and encouraged French jewellers such as Jeremy Posier to settle in Saint Petersburg. The story says that she increased the treasures already acquired by Peter the Great and the Empress Elizabeth by 40%. Catherine loved flowers and floral motifs were very present in her jewels.

Diademe of RussiaHer passion for the arts and jewellery is still visible today thanks to the treasures of the Kremlin. She quickly became aware of the negative influences that Enlightenment philosophies could have on France and on Russia. It is for that reason that she distanced herself from France in cutting off all ties with Voltaire and other philosophers. Her intuition was right as her country was spared from the movements of the French Revolution and continued its pursuit for luxury well after 1800.

Images: PD & PD US; text © World Luxury Jewellers
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