Tips for stone care

What stones were used in Soviet jewelry?

By “classic” we mean jewelry whose style is borrowed from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. These include well-known products from the Kharkov Jewelry Factory. Their famous “flowers” ​​in earrings and rings were produced (and are still produced) in large quantities. Often the entire jewelry industry of the USSR is associated with them.

However, firstly, the same classics were quite diverse. An example of three rings with different inserts and different flower shapes:

And secondly, this was just one of thousands of designs. At the same Kharkov Jewelry, along with these earrings, the following brooches could be made:

Thirdly, in the USSR there were workshops at art foundations. They made real works of art. Such things did not reach buyers; they were shown at exhibitions. But sometimes their designs were reworked and put into circulation. Read our article about a similar example.

Myth No. 2. The decorations were clumsily made

The quality of Soviet jewelry depends on the place of production. For example, Krasnoselsky masters created many beautiful, but primitive stylizations. Products from factories in Leningrad, Tallinn and Druskininkai were in no way inferior to European ones. The jewelry from the Kharkov Jewelry Factory can be called high-quality, but from Almaty – mediocre.

First of all, the pre-war tradition of craftsmen at these factories spoke about quality. Cities with a strong pre-revolutionary tradition often produced the best decorations.

Another aspect of quality is financing. They tried not to spend too much anywhere, often saving on gilding and precious metals. Hence, for example, the tradition of the “Krasnaya Presnya” artel in working with glass imitations of expensive stones:

When such things reach us today, half a century later, the glass is often in poor condition, and the silver is worn out. Therefore, the impression of low quality may be created.

On the other hand, look at these jewelry from the Lviv Jewelry Factory. They have an interesting design, they are made thoroughly:

Myth No. 3. Soviet jewelry overused tasteless large corundums, as if they always wanted to look “expensive and rich”

Here again the decorations of the Kharkov Jewelry Factory played a cruel joke. Their massive rings with pink and red corundum in silver and gold were sold throughout the country.

Familiar, is not it?

There are many of them today. But already in our time they are associated not with “must haves” in a jewelry wardrobe, but rather with Soviet “representatives of trade.” These rings really wanted to impress, which is probably why they were so popular. They are so colorful that we at Soroki’s Shop call them “baron”.

And in general, in the USSR they really used a lot of red and pink corundums, which today seem provocative and old-fashioned. Again, the quantitative advantage makes it difficult to notice variability. It is worth remembering the scale of the Soviet Union! Many regions have recognizable features and everyone will find something of their own among them.

“Russian Gems” from Leningrad made luxurious jewelry with rock crystal:

And for the Tallinn Jewelry Factory, silver and enamel products are more typical:

Myth No. 4. Soviet jewelry included natural rubies and sapphires

The most persistent and popular myth.

Rubies, sapphires – in Soviet jewelry they are, as a rule, grown artificially. Age does not matter – scientists have been synthesizing these stones for more than a hundred years. These first-order gems are the most expensive and rare stones in the world. They are valued for their strength, wear resistance and beauty. The cost depends on the purity, carat and color of the stone. For example, a pure, untreated ruby ​​with minimal inclusions and vibrant color can cost between $800 and $1500 per carat.

There were no deposits of rubies and sapphires on the territory of the USSR; they were not imported into the country.

The Soviet jewelry industry did not advertise that the stones in jewelry were synthetic. However, scientists mastered the manufacturing process back in the 20s.

All this became a big disappointment for people in the 1990s. Back then, many people sold Soviet jewelry in the hope of getting significant money for them.

The harsh truth was that the price of synthetic stones is significantly lower than natural ones – they can be purchased for about 50 cents per piece measuring 6×8 mm.

Myth No. 5. I have jewelry with alexandrites

Another sore subject. As we already figured out in the last paragraph, there were no natural sapphires and rubies in the USSR. For the same reasons, there were no natural alexandrites.

However, there were no synthetic alexandrites in the USSR. Why?

Soviet chemists produced synthetic corundum. This group of minerals includes ruby, sapphire and opaque stones, which are used for grinding and polishing.

What many sellers today are trying to pass off as alexandrite is a synthetic corundum sapphire with a color-changing effect. Alexandrite is a different stone, it has different physical and chemical properties, and the nature of its changing colors is also different.

Myth No. 6 All stones in Soviet jewelry are synthetic

This myth is the opposite of the previous two.

USSR jewelry contained natural precious stones that can be found throughout the country: amethysts, emeralds, diamonds.

The situation was even better with ornamental stones, also known as semiprecious stones: jasper, rhodonite, agate, aventurine, chalcedony, jade, amazonite, etc. In the USSR there were many places where stones were mined, so we are familiar not only with jewelry and accessories, but also with household items and the cladding of rooms with such stones. Often the most interesting items made from gems were made at the Sverdlovsk Jewelry Factory.

Interestingly, gems were rarely imitated even in costume jewelry. There was no shortage of raw materials. Glass and plastic imitations are found in silver and costume jewelry, but they are fairly easy to distinguish from the original stone.

Myth No. 7. Soviet jewelers used “real Yakut beryl”

Several times we have come across theses about real Yakut beryl, so we will dwell on them in more detail.

Beryls are a family of silicate gemstones. Emerald belongs to this group – a transparent variety of beryl, colored grass-green by chromium oxide or vanadium oxide, sometimes with an admixture of iron oxide. Large, high-quality emeralds weighing over 5 carats are valued more than diamonds!

The emerald mines of the Urals were discovered in the 19th century. In the USSR, they were managed by the “Russian Gems” trust, and a little later by “Soyuzpredmet”. Mining gem-quality emeralds was not a priority. The mines were developed to extract the metal beryllium. It was used in the military industry.

Therefore, natural emeralds in Soviet jewelry are quite rare. More often these were artificially grown emeralds. The duality of names is misleading. For example, Yakut emerald is called chrome diopside, and Ural emerald is called demantoid.

Myth No. 8. Head sample = pre-war jewelry

This thesis is partly true, but not entirely. Let’s delve a little into the history of stamps of the Soviet period!

From 1917 to 1927 there was no hallmark standard. Only 10 years after the revolution, a standard was established – the head of a worker with a hammer at the ready and the letter code of the assay office (a letter of the Greek alphabet). The mark was either in the shape of a spatula or in the shape of a quadrangle with convex opposite sides. These marks were used until 1956, when the five-pointed Soviet star replaced the worker’s head. The principle of reading remained the same, but they began to use the Cyrillic alphabet for the alphabetic cipher.

Considering the turbulence of the 30s, the most difficult period of the Second World War, few jewelry made at that time have reached us. Today, we find the mark in the form of a worker’s head mainly on jewelry made between 1950 and 1956.

Myth No. 9. Soviet jewelry had only 875 standard, all the rest were fake or new jewelry.

The assay tells how much gold or silver is contained in a certain amount of metal. Before the revolution, the Russian Empire used a spool test pegged to the Russian pound. When switching to the more common and understandable metric system, a recalculation occurred. Thus, the pre-revolutionary 84 standard turned into 875, and 88 into 916.

875 silver with a star is most often found in Soviet jewelry.

There was also 916 silver. As a rule, it was used by Leningrad, Tallinn, and Yerevan jewelry factories for jewelry with enamel.

We have a separate detailed material on how to read stamps.

Myth No. 10. There was little jewelry, and there was nowhere to wear it.

Leisure in the USSR was not diverse, but this does not mean that it did not exist. Women happily dressed for holidays and for going out. They especially often remember graduations, when girls were given earrings or rings, or they were specially borrowed from friends and family.

Among the memories there is also a place for shyness regarding expensive and beautiful things – even if they appeared, showing them was awkward, and maybe even considered inappropriate. Hence, jewelry and sets of dishes are forever stored in sideboards – someday “for later,” but not now.

The tone in style was set by singers, actresses and their incarnations on the silver screen. Watching Soviet films, we can safely assume that some women on the street could look like this. Examples are Lyudmila Gurchenko or even Nina Doroshina from the film “Love and Doves”.

Many of us have leftover Soviet jewelry from our mothers and grandmothers with a distinctive design and bright red, blue or green stones. Some people keep them as “family jewels,” while others take them to a pawnshop to make money on “Soviet gold.” What do you think jewelers say to owners of such jewelry? This is the material of the Domashny Ochag publication.

In the USSR, it was customary to give gold jewelry with such stones for important events, for birthdays, graduations, weddings, and the birth of children. What were these stones that were so popular among Soviet women? Real or artificial?

Mass jewelry production in the USSR

Many of these jewelry appeared in the USSR after 1966, when at the next plenum of the CPSU Central Committee it was decided to create mass jewelry production in the country. It was thanks to this mass popularity that gold jewelry inlaid with stones became available to many Soviet women.

Many of them considered these stones to be real, without thinking about their origin. What were they really like? Those readers who have already tried to make money on “family jewels” by selling jewelry to jewelry stores know the answer to this question. People were often amazed to find out from jewelers that, at best, synthetic stones were sold in the USSR under the guise of a precious stone.

Artificial corundums and the 19th century

So, these were not real rubies and sapphires, but synthetic stones – artificial corundum. And the technology for their production was not invented in the USSR. Such technology was thought about even before the revolution.

So, in 1830, a method of “sintering” small rubies into one beautiful stone was invented. And at the end of the 19th century, the French chemist Auguste Verneuil created a technology for growing synthetic stones in a special oven.

This invention marked the beginning of the industrial production of stones, which, in their chemical and physical properties, actually corresponded to natural ones. Therefore, do not be surprised if even a pre-revolutionary family jewel inherited from your great-grandmother turns out to be a ring with a synthetic stone.

Stones and lasers

So, you already understand that many inserts in jewelry from the times of the USSR are synthetic stones. At least this applies to the bright red and blue stones that were presented to us as “rubies,” “sapphires,” and “emeralds.” The production of synthetic corundum using the Verneuil method in the Soviet Union was very widespread: these stones were necessary for the production of watches, and then lasers.

There was tension with natural stones in the country. There were no deposits of rubies on the territory of the USSR that could be suitable for jewelry. Importing these stones from abroad was unreasonably expensive (natural gem-quality rubies are sometimes more expensive than diamonds of the same size).

The same story applies to natural emeralds. Back in the 19th century, an emerald deposit was discovered in the Urals, but in the USSR this stone was mined not for the jewelry industry, but for the extraction of beryllium.

What they looked like

At times, the design of Soviet jewelry with synthetic stones was very questionable. Often these were bulky (and uncomfortable) gold rings or earrings with unreasonably large artificial “rubies”, “sapphires”, “emeralds” and cubic zirconia. They could be seen from afar. Therefore, women often, before walking through dark alleys, took earrings out of their ears in advance and hid them in their pockets or purses.

Artificial diamonds

Speaking of cubic zirconias. They were first managed to grow in the 80s by scientists from the Lebedev Institute. These artificial diamonds made a real splash on the world market in those years. And they were very expensive back then. But they were willingly bought in the Soviet Union; our man was not afraid of the word “synthetic”.

Do these jewelry have any value?

Despite all of the above, it cannot be said that old Soviet jewelry with synthetic stones has no value. At a minimum, these are usually gold items, and gold always has a good price. In addition, Soviet synthetic stones were of excellent quality. Well, don’t forget that in the USSR very high demands were placed on the strength and reliability of jewelry. Many of them are still “in service”. The stones are very securely fastened, the clasps do not break.

So, if you don’t have a fire and you don’t need to pawn your family gold to get by, keep it. Who knows, perhaps later these products with synthetic stones will become a rarity and rise in price.

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