They should have vanished a century ago after Russia’s October Revolution, melted down with the rest of a solid silver tableware set by Faberge, Imperial Russia’s legendary jeweler. And yet, two knives from the collection have just resurfaced in Poland.
After the 1917 revolution deposed Tsar Nicolas II, the Bolshevik-ruled Russia that emerged needed money to wage war and consolidate its power. To this end, the valuable possessions of per-revolutionary elites, including the tsar, aristocratic and bourgeois families as well as the Russian Orthodox Church, were nationalized.
Handcrafted gold and silverware, platters and goblets were melted down to obtain precious metals. More than 100 pieces of silverware, including plates, dishes and cutlery, made by Peter Carl Faberge for Saint Petersburg’s wealthy and noble Kelch family, met the same fate.
But, as it turns out, not all was lost. “Two fish knives one for serving that is 35 centimeters (14 inches) long and another for individual use that is 21 centimeters were miraculously spared,” Adam Szymanski, a Polish art historian and Faberge expert, said. Up to now “art historians and the Faberge Foundation thought that this silverware service had disappeared forever, in its entirety,” he added.
But, as Szymanski reveals, the two knives were spared thanks to a Red Army soldier, who was given them in 1918 as a form of payment for helping in the melting down of the rest of the neo-gothic style tableware set.
The story of the knives dates back to 1900.