Large hairpin with landscape Gold, filigree, silver, rubies, sapphires and painting, 22 x 27 cm China, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), 16th to 17th centuries. San Petersburgo, State Hermitage Museum

The origins of the Asian treasures in the Hermitage lie in the collections of Imperial jewels and precious objects. The Russian monarchs' palaces were embellished with diplomatic gifts and objects acquired from the luxury goods market. Peter the Great steered the court towards European taste, summoning Russian and western European craftsmen in response to the increasing demand for luxury associated with the new court etiquette. The Tsar assembled a Cabinet of Curiosities of rare natural objects, jewels and works of art in emulation of other European monarchs. Peter's daughter, Elizabeth Petrovna, acquired examples of goldsmiths' work from the principal European markets and in Saint Petersburg.

Notable acquisitions of this period include the objects made by the Swiss artist Jérémie Pauzié for the court and the city's aristocracy. Housed beneath her apartments in the Winter Palace was Catherine the Great's collection of Oriental gold and silver filigree, which she referred to as her 'Museum', unique in its variety and content. She also installed a 'Diamonds Room' that housed a wide range of jewels and precious objects made by European craftsmen who had settled in Saint Petersburg, including Jean-Pierre Ador and Jean-Louis David Duval. The most valuable objects from these collections were later displayed to the public in the 'Treasure Gallery', which constituted a separate museum of goldsmiths' work within the Imperial Hermitage created by Nicholas I.

The collection of jewels continued to expand during the nineteenth century through acquisitions and gifts and included modern pieces by René Lalique and the house of Fabergé.

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