The Russian vogue for stone-cutting led to the creation of some of the most beautiful objets d'art, most famously those in malachite. Malachite, a stalagmitic form of copper carbonate, was sawn into very thin slices and then applied to a stone or metal ground, with the veins being laid to form pleasing patterns, and then highly polished with the joins barely visible.
This pair of spectacular vases relates to designs by the celebrated architect and designer Andrei Voronikhin (1759-1814), who provided these for the Imperial Lapidary workshops at Peterhof. Peterhof, the oldest stone-cutting factory in Russia, is just a few miles from St. Petersburg, however the huge distances from the mines and quarries meant that it was soon joined by the new imperial factory at Ekaterinburg, in the heart of the Ural Mountains. A third, most famous factory, was later founded in Kolyvan, western Siberia, which specialised in colossal pieces made from the stones extracted from the Altai Mountains.