Some interesting details from United States Consular Reports from St Petersburg and Odessa that were posted in 1902:
GOLD AND SILVER MANUFACTURES
For centuries Russia has been famous for the beauty and design of its products in silver and gold ornaments. As far back as the eleventh century ancient literature shows that an abundance of beautiful objects existed in gold and silver, such as rings, earrings, vases, ornaments, and arms. It was not, however, until the twelfth century that the work in silver and gold became a national industry. In the fifteenth century the art had so far advanced in all that concerns metal articles cast or forged as to cause the establishment of workshops for the manufacture of embroidery, tinsel ware, gold-beating, and the regular goldsmith work.
The organization of the craft and the first legal regulation of the gold and silver industries date from the end of the eighteenth century. Following the example of the States of Western Europe, the basis of this new regulation was an obligation not to manufacture any articles other than of a good alloy, not to sell any articles which had not been tested by the State, and to pay a very small duty or tax called the "control tax." These regulations are still in force and they form part of the law of 1896, which is at present in force regarding that control.
The great favor always enjoyed in Russia by gold and silver articles, as well as the entire series of measures taken by the Government with a view of promoting the prosperity of this industry with the progress of industrial life, have assured and successfully developed this industry. In the actual situation of the gold and silver industry, by the variety of its products, the importance of its manufactures and the business to which it gives rise, the first place belongs to that Russian manufacture called high class ware, as well as to goldsmithing in the broadest acceptation of the term. This branch of industry produces articles of forms and qualities much varied, of articles cast, forged, chiseled, engraved, chased as well as cloisonne, of articles of stained metal, oxidized, enameled, and, lastly, of enamels which have no rivals. The larger articles and partly the small ones, also, have for a long time past been manufactured at Moscow, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Odessa, Riga, at Kovno, and Berdichev in factories and simple workshops of artisans. The smaller articles are manufactured chiefly by the artisans in the large towns and by workers in families in the provinces of Kostroma, Moscow, and partly by the goldsmiths in the provinces of the Caucasus. Small and large articles of great artistic value, ornaments, as well as various objects destined for church service, are likewise manufactured in several important factories such as Orchinnikov, Grachev, J. P. Hlebnikov, Sons & Co., as well as others. These articles are not only distinguished by the beauty and originality of design, the fineness and elegance of the chiseling, but also by the excellence of engraving, the brilliancy and harmony of the enamels. Such artist goldsmiths as Faberge, Bolin, Bok, Ardt, Han, and others at St. Petersburg; Fould, Lombardo, Kuznetsev, and others at Moscow; Mankelevich at Warsaw; Machar at Kiev, and other goldsmiths established in different towns have long since attained the highest level of their art.
Articles in filigree, purses, earrings, pins, as well as articles of stained metal, belts, ornamentation of arms, decanters, etc., are manufactured by goldsmiths and sometimes by artisans working at their homes in the Caucasus. In 1899 this industry employed over 57 hundredweight of alloyed gold of a quality never below 583/1000 and 1,492 hundredweight of alloyed silver, the lowest quality of 875/100 and counted 5,000 establishments, factories, or simple workshops, giving employment to nearly 15,000 workmen and about 6,000 apprentices.
The second branch, which is the most important one in the Russian gold and silver industry, is the manufacture of tinsel. The production of tinsel, which makes great progress, comprises most varied articles. It furnishes the materials for an entire series of industries, such as gold embroidery, gold lace, galloon or crown lace, and brocade. The most renowned tinsel ware is that which comes from the factories of the V. Alekseyev Company and the houses of I. Veshniakov and Shamshin, which have found a large market, principally in the East. The silver tinsel of high grade and gilt-silver tinsel does not contain less than 979/1000 of precious metal. As regards the articles made of new silver, they usually contain 50, 40, and 25 per cent and the silver-plated articles contain from 0.16 to 0.02 of silver. In 1899 1 hundredweight of pure gold and about 137 hundredweight of pure silver were employed in the manufacture of tinsel. This industry, which is almost entirely centered at Moscow and the surroundings of that town, counts 8 establishments with workshops for spinning, with 836 laborers, and 120 establishments without spinning departments, but making galloon, gold tissue, and other tissue of a similar nature, which employ 628 laborers.
Owing to the importance and extent of its production, gold-beating comes next after the tinsel industry. This branch of industry produces under the name of " folier" extremely thin foil of forged metal which is employed for gilding and silvering certain objects and in the industry of tinsel. The principal centers for the production of folier are the towns of Moscow and St. Petersburg and the province of Yaroslav. In 1899 the 49 gold-beaters' establishments employed 300 laborers and used up 758 pounds of pure gold and 362 pounds of pure silver in folier. The lowest quality for the gold as well as silver used is 906/1000 it should be remembered, however, that Russia produces principally foil of high quality, of which the percentage varies between 937/1000 and 979/1000. The demand for the lower degrees of quality is supplied from abroad, and in 1899 the quantity imported was 289 pounds of pure gold and 74 pounds of pure silver.
Watches with gold or silver cases, as well as other articles of precious metals subject to the rules of good alloy (853/1000 for the gold and 875/1000 for the silver) and hall-marking and control tax, are not manufactured in Russia. Watches arc imported chiefly from Switzerland. In 1899 this importation consisted of 72,033 cases in gold and 294,624 in silver. The duty for hall-marking is levied per piece; it is 25 cents for the silver cases and varies between 75 cents and $1.50 for gold cases according to the size of the dial.
Moscow occupies the first place for the kind, character, and importance of the production of gold and silver articles. This town alone produces 38.3 per cent of the gold articles of various kinds and 59 per cent of the silver articles manufactured in the Empire. After Moscow comes St. Petersburg (articles of all kinds with goldsmiths' work predominating, 26.3 per cent, and silversmiths 14.7 per cent). Following the two capitals, the cities below named range in the order of the importance of their productions: Odessa, which city produces elegant jewelry at moderate prices, articles in gold 10.5 per cent and articles , in silver 1.5 per cent of the total production of the Empire; Warsaw, jewelry and goldsmith ware 4.6 per cent and 5.1 per cent in silver articles; Riga (various articles), 3.6 per cent in gold and 1.2 per cent in silver; Tiflis (filigrane and stained articles), 2.7 per cent in gold and 2.8 per cent in silver; the region of Kostroma (cheap silver articles for local use), almost exclusively silver articles and articles silver plated, 10.5 per cent. Kiev and Berdichev manufacture, among other articles, plated wares such as vessels and services. The other towns having a rather considerable production are Vilna, Kazan. Nahichevan, Toula, Nizhni, Ekaterinoslav, Saratov, Harkov, and Ekaterinburg, of which the production is inferior. In all of the towns mentioned foreign imports will be found, and there exist officials who are charged with the hall-marking and control. In 1899 the Russian establishments throughout the Empire worked up a total of 41 hundredweight of pure gold and 1,450 hundredweight of pure silver. The imports of 1899 (exclusive of watches and gold and silver bars) were 1,168 pounds of articles in pure gold and about 13,224 pounds in pure silver. The articles in gold and silver give rise to a trade amounting to over $15,000,000. All of the gold and silver used in the trade in Russia is imported in ingots from Hamburg, Germany, and bears the Hamburg mark.
Tariff of 1901.
Paragraph 148. Gold, silver, platinum, and articles made of the same (per pound).
(1) Gold in ingots or rolled into strips or sheets (except as mentioned in point 5 of this paragraph) free.
(2) Gold in all kinds of articles; jewelers' gold work without stones, and also with all kinds of real or false stones, pearls, etc., 66 rubles ($33.99), by conventional tariff, 52.89 rubles ($27.24).
(3) Silver and all kinds of alloyed compounds of silver (including compounds of silver and gold) containing over 2 per cent of silver in the total weight of the metal in ingots, powder, or rolled into strips or sheets (except as mentioned in point 5 of this paragraph), 3 rubles ($1.55).
Remark: The duty indicated in the present point (3) is levied on the Asiatic frontier of the Empire as well as on the European. On the frontiers of those countries with which special treaties have been concluded the levying of the same is effected in conformity with those treaties.
(4) Silver in all kinds of articles, even if gilt, jewelers' work in silver, gilt or ungilt, and all kinds or real or false stones, pearls, etc., 9 rubles ($4.04).
(5) Gold and silver in thin sheets weighing, per 100 square inches, gold 90 dolis or less and silver 48 dolis or less, including the weight of the immediate packing, 7.50 rubles ($3.86).
(6) Galloon and lace (gold embroidery) work in gold, silver, or tinsel; gold and silver drawn into wire and spun; woven or knitted ribbons in gold, silver, or tinsel, 10.80 rubles ($5.56).
(7) Tinsel drawn into wire or spun, spangle, etc., ornamentations, 3 rubles ($1.55). Remark: As tinsel drawn into wire will be considered ornamentation not made from precious metal, having in the kilo (2.2046 pounds) not less than 1,500 meters length (4,922 feet) and covered with gold or silver to the amount of not more than 2 per cent of the total weight of the metal.
(8) Platinum in strips, wire, or sheets, and also in all kinds of articles, 30 rubles ($15.45).
All the booklets of gold and silver imported must have on their covers the name of the master or manufacturer, number of sheets, and weight of metal contained therein, and only booklets furnished with these particulars will be sent to the establishments of control for testing and affirming of the prescribed marks and subsequent admission to circulation in commerce. (Circular of 1882, No. 13575.)
Warsaw is the principal center of the manufacture of plated ware in this country. There are ten establishments, which employ about 2,000 workmen. There are also a few small establishments situated in the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The quantity of white metal or melchior annually produced in Warsaw is valued at about $600,000, and the total value of melchior and articles of plated silver produced was estimated in 1897 at $1,500,000. This includes the articles of white metal and of copper plated with silver. It may be mentioned in this connection that on account of the great competition of melchior the articles of copper plated with silver are gradually going out of use. Melchior is imported from abroad and is electroplated at Warsaw and the towns previously mentioned. The plating is said to be very inferior and when finished very expensive. Replating is a frequent necessity. Owing to the high duty on silver-plated ware the difference in price between silverware in Russia and the imported English plated ware is about 10 per cent. Foreign plated ware is not imported into Russia in any large quantities, except, perhaps, watch cases from Germany.
Custom Tariff in February, 1892.
(1) Articles of melchior, brass, and similar compounds, besides knives and forks, if they are gilt or silvered.
(a) If the articles exceed 1 pound in weight each, per pound, 0.975 ruble (50 cents) plus 10 per cent.
(b) If the articles are under 1 pound weight each, per pound, 1.95 rubles ($1) plus 10 per cent.
Knives or forks, if gilt or silvered, or in valuable setting, per pood (36.1 pounds) 48 rubles ($24. 72) plus 20 per cent.
Plated ware is not manufactured in this consular district (Odessa), and statistics regarding the same for a full report on the production in this country and the importation from abroad could not be obtained.
OPENING FOR AMERICAN WARE.
The only obstacle to the introduction of the American plated ware would seem to be the high duty. The Warsaw manufacturers have agents for the sale of their goods in every important city of the Empire, and in most instances they own and operate the stores where the goods are sold
Thos. E. Heenan, Consul.
Odessa, June 3, 1902.
IMPORTS AND EXPORTS
The amount of plated ware exported in 1901 was 94 poods (3,403 pounds), valued at 940 rubles ($484). The imports for the same period were manufactured articles–silver, weighing 9,649 poods (348,330 pounds), valued at 7,445,000 rubles ($3,985,075); silver ingots, weighing 20,552 pounds, valued at 959,000 rubles ($493,385).
Russians are prejudiced in favor of silverware of their own manufacture, as each firm is compelled by law to stamp every article manufactured with the figures 84, as well as initials of the firm, heavy penalties being provided for fraud.
The Russians make a specialty of enameled work in silver, which forms a large per cent of their export in silver, the principal part going to the United States, consisting of punch bowls, cups of various designs, card receivers, cigarette cases, candlesticks, saltcellars, Easter ornaments, icons, ladies' belts, napkin rings, spoons, etc., which are known over the world and purchased in considerable quantities by tourists as souvenirs, because of their distinctly Russian character. The Russians also excel in the manufacture of special ornaments in silver, with miniatures of Cossacks, horses, sleighs, and implements of war. Dealers here say there is no demand for foreign silver or plated wares; that Russian designs are satisfactory, and as labor is cheaper here than in the United States the homemade article is preferable. The only way to introduce American silver or plated wares in Russia will be by showing superior designs and making satisfactory prices.
W. R. Holloway,
St. Petersburg, March 7, 1902.
Source: Special Consular Reports - Issues 22-23 By United States Bureau of Foreign Commerce, United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor. Bureau of Statistics, United States. Bureau of Manufactures - 1902