Creations of modern Russian stone carvers are being purchased by the world's largest museums and galleries, and the prices of their works are growing exponentially.

Paradoxical, but true: German jeweler Karl Fabergé became one of the symbols of Russia and Russian art. The son of the founder of the Faberge company in St. Petersburg, Gustav Fabergé, in the late 19th to early 20th century, brought fame to Russia worldwide. The small items produced by his jewelry house received prizes at international exhibitions, and European jewelry firms (including renowned authorities such as Cartier) tried to imitate Fabergé's unique style.

Miniature figurines were not the personal know-how of the Russian court jeweler, but rather an ancient art form. Carving solid semi-precious stones and crystals has been practiced by the Etruscans, Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, and Japanese. In the Middle Ages, the German town of Idar-Oberstein became the European center for stone carving. At the same time, the first masters appeared in Russia, particularly in the Urals.

Fabergé's merit lies in the fact that he synthesized Eastern and Western traditions and elevated folk craft to the level of high art. His approach was truly scientific, and his scale—imperial. The master could afford expeditions to remote deposits in search of rare stones, as well as training and internship for his craftsmen in Idar-Oberstein. The best German and Russian jewelers and stone carvers worked for Fabergé. They were not limited in resources (only the finest precious and semi-precious stones, gold, and silver were used), nor in time (creating one piece of work could extend over several months or even years).

After the revolution, small stone carving did not disappear but went "underground"—when in the 1980s "official" revival became possible, it turned out that this art form not only did not regress but progressed throughout these decades. Works by modern stone carvers from St. Petersburg are being purchased by

The museums and galleries of the world, and the prices on them are growing exponentially (and are already comparable to the value of Faberge works). The State Hermitage Museum intends to open a Faberge museum and dedicate an entire hall to a permanent exhibition of contemporary works, and Christie's included some Russian artists in the list of the best jewelers of the 20th century. Of course, not all contemporary artists can be called artists who create works of art rather than crafts. The list of the best of the best, surpassing Faberge's technique and imagery and even surpassing him, according to Hermitage art experts, includes about fifteen artists. Here are the most interesting ones.

SLAVA TULUPOV - an artist with a worldwide reputation. He was the best at the professional national exhibition "Cutting Edge" in the United States for four years; his stone miniatures were exhibited in leading museums and galleries in the USA and Europe (such as the Carnegie Museum). Christie's named Tulupov one of the best masters of the 20th century and included his works in the book "20th Century Jewelry Art". Tulupov's first experiments in stone sculpture date back to 1982. In 1991, he moved to New York, where he gained fame. His technique is unique - it combines the filigree techniques of St. Petersburg masters and the impeccable precision of the Germans. The foundation of his work is an experiment with form and material, a search for a critical point of balance. Today, the artist is attracted to abstractions, previously he was interested in natural forms, avoiding naturalism. Not only Tulupov's images are unique, but also many of his technical methods: for example, he is the only one who knows how to embed diamonds in a stone several millimeters thick without destroying it. Even Faberge masters did not possess such a technique.

GENNADY PYLIN started working with stone sculpture in 1989. Art experts believe that he is one of the first to have his own style, overcoming the stage of imitating Faberge. His works represent complex philosophical images. In them, the completeness of form combineswith emotional expressiveness, while unreal details with naturalistic ones. He can create an exact copy of a real object out of stone - an imitation of wax, leather or wood. Often even experts cannot believe that it is made of stone. Dust is often asked to touch the work to make sure that it is indeed carved from stone. However, a naturalistic object itself is unappealing to the artist. The composition becomes figurative and interesting only thanks to the combination of the absolutely real with the hyperbolically symbolic. This, as the master himself says, is an "aesthetic overcoming of reality." YAROSLAV KSENOFONTOV, the youngest of contemporary stone carvers, has been working with stone since 1992. He is one of the few who today work with complex multicolored stone sculpture, that is, combining minerals of different colors and densities in one work. The main theme for Ksenofontov is the creation of ironic, illogical, even "fairy tale" images. These are grotesque characters, based on the desire to "capture a state and give it a strangely fairy tale-like decor out of stone and jewelry details" - this is how the artist explains the idea of his creativity. Ksenofontov is far from naturalism and illusionism, he creates images that make you reflect. Who are these characters? "Strange people, talented, unrecognized in their talent, not fitting into their time," - the artist answers this question. SERGEY SHIMANSKY has been working with stone sculpture since 1991. His works have been exhibited multiple times in museums and galleries in London, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Moscow, some of them are permanently displayed in the Armory Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin. In the 19th century, the jewelry house Cartier tried to copy floral compositions by Faberge. Most contemporary masters today are occupied with the same. Shimansky is one of the few who was able to find his own approach to floral compositions. His secret lies in creating dynamics. His bouquets "sway" in the wind, freezing on the petals of flowers.Dew drops. He knows how to capture the moment in the life of a flower between blooming and withering. That is why experts consider Shimansky's flowers the best. Today, the master is busy searching for something new - he is attracted to abstract compositions. Although shapes are not the most important aspect for the artist, he considers the feeling of the stone to be paramount, as the stone itself can dictate the compositional solution.

EUGENE MOROZOV began working with stone in the 80s together with Slava Tulupov. At first, the masters learned from each other and even copied each other, but then each of them found their own style. Morozov's work is heavily influenced by Japanese philosophy: his figures resemble ancient netsuke. The artist believes that a stone miniature should not just be an interior object and sit on a shelf. It should be held in the hands, feel its weight and volume - it should resemble something for meditation. Creativity for the master is a purely individual process. Usually, stone carvers collaborate with jewelers who decorate their works with precious stones and metals. Morozov does everything himself - from A to Z. "Otherwise, I cannot call the work my own," says the master.

ANTON ANANYEV and ALEXANDER VESELOVSKY have been working together since 2000. They named their creative workshop "Stone Guest." In the 19th century, the Faberge jewelry house created compositions in a single copy, believing that even attempting to copy their own work was not worth it, as each subsequent piece should be better than the previous one. Ananyev and Veselovsky are guided by the same belief. "Constant striving for the best" is their motto. The artists experiment a lot with natural forms and animal motifs. They create not only purely interior objects, but also practical items such as boxes, ashtrays, and cigar cases. They are convinced that an object should live in the interior.