Zlatoust hand engraving on knives, watches and tableware is well known to weapons specialists, art historians and collectors in many countries of the world: luxury, fine and elegant color engraving on steel covers metal products of excellent quality, which tsars, General secretaries of the CPSU Central Committee and Russian presidents presented as a great value and continue to present to their foreign friends.
Zlatoust engravings adorn edged weapons, tableware (coffee cups, tea, cognac and wine glasses, bowls) and household items. Often engraving is used in the manufacture of objects of worship – chalices, candlesticks, and parts of icons. Medals, orders, sports cups are also examples of the work of engravers.
Foundation of the city.
Zlatoust, a factory town in Chelyabinsk Oblast that was a new type of industrial settlement, was founded thanks to the Decree of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna by the Tula merchants Mosolov on the Ay river. The plant was named Zlatoust in honor of St. John Chrysostom, whose Church the owners of the enterprise were going to build in the surrounding settlement. The epithet Chrysostom means “golden-mouthed” in Greek (translated in Russian as “Zlatoust”) and denotes his celebrated eloquence.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, Zlatoust has been one of the leading metallurgical industries in the Urals. City-factory was widely known among other metallurgical enterprises in the Urals by the production of high-quality metal. Zlatoust gained world fame thanks to the specialized factory production of decorated edged weapons and art steel engraving.
In 1815, the Zlatoust factory opened an arms factory – a state-owned enterprise to produce edged weapons, which was considered an independent production unit. This weapons factory was the main center of production of edged weapons in Russia, and first of all decorated artistic weapons. It produced all types of bladed edged weapons that are in service with Russia: hussar sabers, cuirassier and dragoon broadswords, army and guards’ cleavers, hunting knives and daggers. Zlatoust also fulfilled special orders for the manufacture of decorated weapons.
Emergence of craft.
One of the world’s most famous weapons centers was Solingen in Germany. The production of weapons there arose already in the XIII century. Solingen masters had their own distinctive feature: they put a trademark on each weapon, marked their name there and put the inscription “Made in Solingen”. Gunsmiths preferred ornaments or symbolic patterns applied by engraving on top of gilding on the weapon.
German masters arrived in Zlatoust in 1815. Shaf family (a father and three sons) gave Russian specialists the skills of gilding and engraving blades. Three years later, Alexander I of Russia was able to see the fruits of their activities – the first batch of nineteen blades was delivered to the capital. The work was liked and received the highest approval.
Shaf family members are the followers of the old German traditions. They knew exactly what a perfect print should look like. The description of the standard requirements would take up more than one page. At a minimum, the drawing should resemble the best examples of Solingen masters – be thin, flat and monochrome. Shaf did not allow the locals to put their ideas into practice for a long time. The Germans scratched the patterns on the metal plate with a needle. Acid etching was used only as the final stage of the process. German instruments were characterized by increased hardness and fineness. Their drawings were very small and detailed, and the plots were repeated to one degree or another.
The Germans lived separately in the settlement and did not seek close communication with the locals. They worked well and were friendly, but at work they were aloof and very reluctant to share their knowledge.
Features of the Russian style.
Students, in addition to those drawings that they learned from Shaf, began to depict scenes from the military and peaceful life of their native country, mythological subjects – they were not afraid to show imagination when choosing engraving techniques. The native nature and wildlife of the Urals are also embodied in their drawings. Russian masters surpassed their teachers in many ways. They learned to use etching to produce different colors and shades. By changing the composition of the acid and the duration of the chemical reaction, they achieved amazing results. In their hands, Zlatoust knives turned into unique works of high art, which are not ashamed to present as a gift even to the tsars.
Two of the most talented Russian gunsmiths of the Zlatoust factory are Ivan Bushuev and Ivan Boyarshinov. They became famous not only for their skills and brilliant artistic and technical level of performance, but also for being the founders of Zlatoust steel engraving school.
The creation of miniatures on themes from the war of 1812 was of fundamental importance in Bushuev’s activity. He made blades with scenes of Russian soldiers fighting with the French and used the image of a winged horse as a decoration. The image of this horse, the mythological Pegasus, adorns the coat of arms of Zlatoust today.
The emergence of a unique artistic style is usually associated with the name of Ivan Bushuev. Hardworking and talented young man grew up in a family of hereditary gunsmiths. The Ural master combined the knowledge and skills learned from his countrymen with the German style of engraving. He was a genius at decorating-he forged the blades and put them on the drawings. His works are kept in the Armoury Chamber of the Moscow Kremlin.
Ivan Bushuev perfectly observed the proportions. His manner is recognizable. The characters are not static like the German ones. People, animals are full of life and movement. It is no accident that the coat of arms of Zlatoust is a golden winged horse rushing towards the wind. Ivan Bushuev often engraved horses.
Ivan Bushuev invented his own method of decorating items with gold. The master knew the technology and was able to make blades at all stages, starting with the separation of ore. He knew the intricacies of the craft of smelting, he was able to forge metal, make varnishes and mixtures for etching, but most of all Ivan liked the art of engraving. He made up the stories and drew them on paper, then reduced them to the desired size, prepared the plate and applied the drawing to it.
Mercury vapor released during heating harms health, so just a few of the hot gold engravers lived to be forty years old. Ivan Bushuev died at the age of 37.
Ivan Boyarshinov became famous as an original author of elegant and complex ornaments and drawings on hunting themes. Almost one of the first in the factory for the artistic decoration of weapons, he began to use Oriental decor. The work of these masters defined the main artistic ideas in the art of Zlatoust engraving on steel in the first half of the 19th century: patriotism, civic duty, national pathos…
The value of the work.
The works of Zlatoust masters are of great interest not only as a piece of art, but also as a piece of history. An old Zlatoust engraving is an antique that is very expensive, especially when you consider that the masters were actively working with gold, silver and precious stones. Various items were regularly ordered for the needs of the Royal family in the workshops of the Zlatoust factory. For example, Ivan Bushuev and a group of friends made armor similar to medieval ones for Alexander, the heir to the Russian throne.
The development of the plant with Anosov and Obukhov.
The development of Zlatoust engraving was largely promoted by the factory Manager Pavel Petrovich Anosov (1797-1851) – an outstanding engineer, Metallurgist and inventor who laid the foundation for high-quality metallurgy in Russia. He restored the lost method of smelting famous Eastern damask.
In 1854 Anosov was replaced by another well–known engineer and metallurgist Pavel Matveyevich Obukhov (1820-1896), who continued the scientific research of his predecessor. Obukhov developed five grades of cast steel that surpassed English steel in their technical qualities. Thus, Anosov Bulat and Obukhov cast steel became a first-class basis for edged weapons manufactured in Zlatoust.
Throughout the 19th century, the products of the Zlatoust arms factory remained a recognized leader in the production of artistic edged weapons and expensive custom-made exclusive household items.
The first functional household items (cutlery, trays and plates, boxes, candlesticks and caskets) appeared in the factory’s production in the 1840s under Anosov. He was taking care of the profitability of the factory, which directly depends on public and private orders. So Anosov expanded the product range, setting up the production of utilitarian household items of wide demand.
After 1917, the Zlatoust plant continued to operate. Now edged weapons were decorated with revolutionary subjects and portraits of Communist party leaders. The place of refined classicism was taken by rough art Nouveau. The emphasis was placed on mass production. The method of grid printing was introduced (the process of transferring an image to the base by pushing paint through a mesh stencil with a squeegee). The author’s style almost disappeared. The color print grew in size and became a panel.
Products of Zlatoust craftsmen began to adorn the walls of state institutions. New technology for the galvanic deposition of Nickel has changed Zlatoust engraving beyond recognition. The drawings became less clear and blurred, with a lot of emphasis on the play of light and shadow. It was not so much engraving as painting.
Grid printing allowed to produce large quantities of identical panels. Huge portraits of Lenin and Stalin decorated the facades of government offices. For a while, creative thought gave way to mechanical work.
In the 1960s, interest in folk crafts was revived again. Vocational and art schools began to open. The engraving of Zlatoust received an impulse to a new development. Young graduates of schools, having received the education of artists-engravers, came to the factory and revealed their talents. During these years, the names of such great artists as G. Bersenev, A. Bogachev, N. Lokhtacheva, O. Averkin and others were heard.
Zlatoust engraving throughout the entire period of its existence was constantly changing. At first, it was characterized by the brevity of forms and realistic drawings inherited from the Germans from Solingen, then Russian masters added gilding and other decorative techniques, enriched the plots. Further, in the 20th century, engraving adopted the ideas of mass art and absorbed new modern styles.
Over the next hundred years, the type of metal engraving changed just as social life and human needs changed. Currently, the art of metal engraving is once again acquiring a touch of elitism. Outstanding masters create real miracles. You can see this by looking at the products in our store. Beautiful items are decorated with gold, silver and precious stones. They are unique not only for their excellent quality of execution and quality of materials, but also for their plots. True high art cannot die, but it cannot stand still – it will always be a breeding ground for identifying talented people and for the birth of new types of art.