Northern Niello

Niello silverwork takes one of the leading places in the centuries-old history of Russian metal working. It became a distinctive feature of the Russian jewellery already in the Kievan Rus’. The technique of niello silverwork is the following: the black alloy consisting of traditional components on the base of silver is fused into hollows of the main metal (in particular, silver) to decorate the article by means of colour contrast in the pattern. One of the first documentary evidences about the niello of Veliky Ustiug dates back to 1683.

The art of niello flourished in the town of Veliky Ustiug in the 18th century. Local craftsmen mastered a whole number of artistic and technical methods which gave their works unique peculiarities. Thanks to their talent, this craft found its unique place in the art of niello, having influenced many centres of Russian jewellery. For instance, according to the archival documents, Mikhail Klimshin, craftsman of Veliky Ustiug, was called to Moscow “to train Moscow’s merchants” in 1744.

The craft was declining gradually during the 19th century because of historical and economic conditions. Revival of “Northern niello” in the 20th century was connected with artisan M.P. Chirkov. Young craftsmen mastered artistic methods and technique of niello silverwork under his direction. Having united in the artel “Severnaya Chern (Northern Niello)” in 1933, they began to produce jewellery. The artistic level of new articles was increased when Y.P. Shilnikovsky, graduate of St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, started to work there. As a result, silver articles decorated with niello work won the world recognition again.

The Severnaya Chern enterprise was awarded the Grand Gold Medal for the table service set adorned with patterns based on the fairy tales of Alexander Pushkin at the Paris World Fair in 1937. Its articles were exhibited in New York, London, Milan, Leipzig, Prague, and in other cities of more than 20 countries of the world and received enthusiastic comment everywhere. They took prize-winning places at various Russian and international contests and exhibitions many times. Niello silverwork items made by the craftsmen of Veliky Ustiug can be seen in the most famous museums of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sergiyev Posad, Archangelsk, Vologda and Veliky Ustiug. The output volume increased, and in 1960, the artel was reorganized in the plant which was given the status of the factory in 1973.

Articles of “Severnaya Chern” are made on a high artistic level and their quality is excellent. Their main advantage is the joint efficiency of niello with silver and the beautiful deep tone of the alloy. Preserving the traditions of the ancient craft, the employees of the factory are developing a unique direction of modern jewellery art.

The Veliky Ustiug Severnaya Chern Factory is a large enterprise of folk artistic craft of Russia, producing silverware of hallmark 925 decorated with niello. The unique ancient art of niello silverwork has been preserved and is being developed in the town of Veliky Ustiug. It is the national treasure of Russian people.

The peculiarity of the manufacture is that every article is made manually following the ancient technique of “Northern niello”. It is attested with the Certificate issued annually by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

The range of goods produced at the factory includes about 1000 items and is intended for different customers. Most of the articles are tableware. They fully conform to the sanitary and epidemiological norms - it is attested with the certificate of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service of the RF. The assortment of jewellery and souvenirs is also rich. They have revived and are expanding a special group of produce - religious articles made in accordance with all the canons of the Russian Orthodox Church. In particular, they produce unique silver icons with images of saints decorated with niello work. The enterprise fills individual orders of the Moscow Patriarchate and Russian Orthodox eparchies.

The Severnaya Chern Factory has great experience in filling exclusive, special and individual orders as well as creating corporate presents. Modern articles of the enterprise are prestigious, unique and interesting for collectors.

The exhibition of the museum presented over 300 articles, including: author’s works, silverware, souvenirs, image gifts and many others.

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