[Tidbits] Russian Rapture


The time: Sometime in the morning. The date: September 1,1762.
The event: The coronation of Empress Catherine II of Russia. This
extravaganza would be heralded as the most wildly excessive and
lavish event of the century. Immoderation was the call of the
day. I would venture to say the old saw: If you got it, flaunt
it…began along here somewhere. After having gotten rid of her
useless husband, Czar Peter III some two months before, she was
now ready to hit the road to monarchy. It would take her thirteen
days to reach the old capital of Moscow. No problem for the
wealthy. She had a sleigh built. It had a salon, a library, and a
bedroom. It had six windows. It was heated by porcelain stoves.
It held eight people comfortably. Behind her was a procession of
198 more sleighs. Along her journey, in order to glean favor with
the populace, our dear empress tossed out 600,000 silver coins to
the crowds along the route.

I am going to skip the satin and lace stuff…and go straight to
the jewelry she would wear for her coronation. Her crown was
made with 5000 diamonds, hundreds of pearls, and a 415 carat
ruby. There was more to the crown…I give you only the pertinent

At the front of the Assumption Cathedral where she would be
coronated–by the way…she placed her crown on her head
herself–at the front was the seventeenth century Diamond Throne
of Czar Alexis. This little chair was embedded with 870
diamonds…144 rubies…and 129 pearls. Diamonds, apparently, are
not only a girl’s best friend, but also an Empress’s.

Walls of the palaces of Cathy’s day were ornamented with
amethyst and jade and jasper and agate. The nobility ornamented
themselves to the hilt with diamonds…men and women alike.
Examples of things studded with diamonds weRe: Rings, bracelets,
necklaces, tiaras–of course tiaras–pins, shoe buckles, hair
pins, fans, watches and swords. That’s what’s listed folks, I’m
sure there was more. I would go into the furs they wore…but I’m
not in the fur business, so I’ll pass. Suffice it to say sable
and musk were in the forefront of things.

I have pictures of jewelry of the day up the kazoo. I want to
show you something and I want it to be unique. You’ve all seen
crowns in one form or another. You’ve all seen rings and pins and
brooches and bracelets and watches and pendants…good golly Ms.
Molly…what have you not seen? I’ll tell you what. You have not
seen a jade monkey bell push with a cigar in it’s mouth. Have
you? I’m betting not. So…among the doodads of the time…I’ve
chosen an ape for all of you to see. You know where. For you new
folks…to my home page…scroll down the table menu till you get
to the box that says Tidbits Graphics. Click on “monkey”…and
you’ll see what you’ll see. Have a great weekend.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark

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