About the Company
Founder of the firm
Andrey Georgievich Ananov
Honored Worker of the Arts of Russia
Companion of the Order of Honor
1989 - Founder of the company “Russian Jewelry Arts”
1991 - exhibition in London
1991 - contract signed with the Paris-based firm Elida-Gibbs Faberge on creation of the trademark “Faberge by Ananov”
1991 - presentation of the firm’s collection at the Ritz Hotel, Paris
1991 - presentation to A.G. Ananov of the “Silver Lion” international prize in Paris
1992 - opening of the firm’s first showroom at the Grand Hotel Europa in St. Petersburg
1992 - presentation to A.G. Ananov of the European Gold Medal in Genoa
1992 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Monaco
1993 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Madrid
1993 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Monaco
1994 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Stockholm
1995 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Paris
1995 - A.G. Ananov receives the distinguished title “Honored Worker of the Arts of Russia”
1996 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Sao Paolo
1997 - A.G. Ananov is added to the “Golden Book “ of Russia
1998 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in Moscow
1999 - publication of the first literary work by A.G. Ananov - the book “Two Aces in the Bank”
1999 - opening of the firm’s main showroom at 31 Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg, in the historic “Silver Row” building
2000 - personal exhibition of the firm’s works in the Armory of the Moscow Kremlin
2000 - presentation to A.G. Ananov of the Carl Faberge Medal, first class, encrusted with diamonds, and the distinction “Best Jeweler of the Century” at the International Exhibition timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the World’s Fair in Paris.
2000 - nomination of A.G. Ananov for the Russian State Prize for Art and Literature
2001 - presentation to A.G. Ananov of the Tsarskotselskaya Prize
2003 - awarded with the medal “300th Anniversary of the Founding of St. Petersburg”
2004 - awarded the highest honor of the Public Council “Gratitude of St. Petersburg”
2005 - awarded the Medal of Honor
2014 - exhibition at the State Hermitage
2014 - awarded the European Gold Medal for outstanding professional achievement
2015 - exhibition at the State Historical Museum in Moscow
2016 - exhibition at the International Economic Forum
Andrey Ananov is the most famous jeweler in Russia. What’s more, he’s also a social phenomenon symbolizing our shared national life in recent decades, an almost literary figure with tales of theater directing, underground jewelry work, the drive of a young capitalist and the confidence of new-Russian wealth.
He’s sometimes referred to as an imitator or successor of the great Faberge. Thankfully, that’s not the case. He’s continuing in the footsteps not of Faberge but of the classical St. Petersburg arts style of which the Faberge traditions became a part. St. Petersburg style was born at a time when architects from different countries had converged on the city to fuse their disparate national sensibilities into the unique world of St. Petersburg architecture. Later, the “Silver Age” of St. Petersburg ushered in the harmonious combination of different historical styles in a fanciful-yet-elegant dance of enamel mixed with diamonds Refined beauty, much like decline and decay, have always been close to the city, erected as it was through sheer force of will and miraculous intervention on swampland.
It’s a style that flourishes in the skilled hands of Ananov and his masters, taking on new shapes and forms that still harken back to the past. New trends are leading the Easter eggs farther away from their Russian Orthodox meaning so prevalent at the turn of the last century. Their subject matter captures mosques, crescent moons and Arabic inscriptions. It may yet be, however, that this is a return to the universality of the symbol of life, the birth of life.
Ananov’s favorite architectural subjects today are prominent buildings infused with the ‘Moscow” spirit, the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and St. Petersburg Cathedral of the Resurrection. I don’t see any particular stylistic betrayal here either, but rather the expansion of his style horizon and conquering of new territory.
The superb creations by the Ananov studio will give us many esthetic pleasures to come, and with them - plenty of heated debates. Fierce arguments over the fate of the finer things is also a fond tradition of St. Petersburg, a city that gave Russia Ananov and a city to whose jewelry-making the master has devoted his life’s work and incredible talent.
Director of the State Hermitage
How it all started
Her Majesty Elizabeth II at the Mariinsky Palace.
A. Ananov presenting the Queen of England with a “brambleberry branch.”
St. Petersburg. 1994
The magnificent front staircase on the corner of Vladimirsky and Stremyanna, with bits of abandoned stucco and the vacant space left by the statues that once stood in the archway, the filthy marble window ledges, empty wine bottles, glass tumblers hung carefully on the radiator valve (the universal symbol of the wino brotherhood), puddles of dried urine that continued to exude the potent yet-unmistakable scent of “Agdam” port, torn sheets of used newspaper, candy wrappers and colorful expressions scrawled on the walls - it was almost part of the perfect set decoration for an unnerving Soviet tragicomedy.
On the third floor, feeling for the broken light-switch in the dark, I made the dusty electric bulb smile for the last time as it dangled from the bit of wire where the light fixture had once been. The only thing left of the fixtures on the landings were the hooks, frozen in time as if waiting for the logical conclusion to the fates of the stairway’s denizens, still keeping their tumblers on the heating pipe.
The flash of the bulb faintly illuminated the once-elegant carved wooden door, now mutilated by an incalculable number of bells, whimsical nameplates and television cables. Like a wry grin from the past, on the door had survived a copper sign with a clearly-legible inscription: “Professor Schuster. Venereal Diseases.”
А. Ananov with his daughter on the occasion of the presentation of the
European Gold Medal.
My buddy Yura, “artist of the Imperial theaters” as he liked to refer to himself, occupied the little room to the left of the entrance, once servants quarters, then proletarian digs, long and dark as the small intestine.
On that day, he felt like drinking - as usual, but had no money - as usual. And so I had been invited, or more precisely summoned by phone like an ambulance, with a half-liter injection tucked in my pocket.
It was God himself who guided me along that stairway, steered me into the communal apartment and somewhere after the second round pointed to the corner of Yura’s tiny room. There, between the jerry-rigged rolltop bookcase with the portrait of its owner carved into the lid, and the aquarium with the dead goldfish, stood a small yet striking, sagging with clutter, desk.
“Yura, what’s that?”
Yura got flustered and shivered. It was obvious that he hadn’t had enough time to gather up his things and shut the lid, so he had to “come clean.”
“Dad was a jeweler. He taught me a bit when I was little. I even worked as an engraver. I still flirt with it, do rings, fix earrings for someone in the theater... but you know as well as I do that it’s a banned trade.”
First, I didn’t know that at all, second - we were out of vodka We could really put it away back then. There was no one left to borrow from - I had already done the rounds.
“Yura - what’s the problem! You’re a jeweler! Let’s make something quick, like an annulet, I’ll help out here and there - let’s go!”
“I’m not feeling up to it just now - and where would we sell it? I just don’t know...”
“Come on man!” “It doesn’t hurt to try, as Comrade Beria liked to say!”
And we hunkered down. That was the first time I ever picked up an ingenious jeweler’s instrument, trimmed a piece of genuine silver wire with a file, polished it up with a brush wheel, ran to the corner, to “Moscow” restaurant, and soon returned with two bottles of vodka and some sausage links...
Twenty-five years have passed since then...
The article features chapters from the book by Andrey Ananov “Two Aces in the Bank.”
Those first few lessons about the jewelry trade, gleaned so long ago on Stremyanna, did not go to waste. It was then twenty-five years ago, that I first came down with the disease. Working as a director, travelling from theater to theater, staging dramatic plays, I always brought along by heavy toolbag.
Madam Chirac, First Lady of France,
at an exhibition of works by A. Ananov
By the early 1980s I had already become an experienced jeweler and toiled at home, accepting private orders. My heart was torn between my love for my theatrical profession and my new passion. After evening rehearsals I’d race home, work like a maniac, often all night long, and then run back to the theater again in the morning.
In the fall of 1981, I was paid a visit in my apartment by the KGB, armed with a search warrant.
Strange as it may sound, it’s the episode that determined my fate. I had made my choice. I left the theater.
Seven years I worked at home without looking up, with passion and direction. My goal was both ambitious and audacious. I decided to become the new Faberge, to darn the thread, broken by the Bolshevik Revolution, that stretched back into the very depths of time to the great Russian jewelers Sharf and Pauzie, Rappoport and Perkhin... I adored that style, perfect in the beckoning glow of finely-cut diamonds and mirror-polished enamel, reminiscent of that bygone era of palaces, high-society parties, smartly-dressed officers and elegantly-decollated ladies, I was enchanted by the enchanting illusion of the past of a once-rich and mighty power.
My own two hands were no longer enough. I gained apprentices, and the fifteen-square-meter apartment that I rented at the time, packed with my work desk, tuning lathe and crib for my newborn-daughter Anyuta, filled with those to whom I imparted the wisdoms of the trade that I had come to comprehend.
I’ve remembered since childhood the tale of the two little frogs who fell into a milk jug in the cellar....
- Farewell, brother! - said the one, folding his flippers and sinking to the bottom.”I’ve always got time to drown,” - thought the other. And he struggled with all of its might until finally, exhausted, he felt the firmness underneath him and made his way out: the milk had been churned into butter.
We struggled, as best we could, and churned our own butter. We had become masters - and then perestroika finally began. But that was only the very beginning - the faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I still had to become the first jeweler in Russia to gain official rights to fabricate items from gold and silver.
For a long time after the dawn of perestroika, the firmly-entrenched Soviet system clung to its perks and privileges. One of these privileges was the state monopoly on metal. And the Precious Metals Committee was given strict instructions from the party leadership “don’t terrorize market participants.” And they didn’t terrorize, they just applied the breaks with all their might. With directives, foot-dragging, red tape and sabotage. But I severed that knot. I took a risk. I took a collection of unique jewelery pieces, made with my own two hands, to the State Repository for Precious Metals and laid it on the desk of then-Chairman of the Precious Metals Committee Yevgeny Matveevich Bychkov. The pieces bore just one mark - the “Ananov” mark, and the absence on them of the mark of the State Inspectorate of Assay Supervision was a criminal offense.
- If you’re a technocrat-bureaucrat, then pick up the phone and call the KGB, - I said. - but if you’re a professional and you care about the fate of the Russian jewelery arts, then help me get authorization to make things like this.
Bychkov frowned, turned red, and grabbed his magnifying glass. The wait was excruciating... Finally, he finished his inspection and picked up the government phone. I froze.
Bychkov turned out to be a professional after all, and both he and his friend, the Head of the State Inspectorate of Assay Supervision, Valentin Nikitin, cared deeply about the fate of the Russian jewelery arts.
I was the first to receive a license to make pieces from gold. Mandate number one.
That’s how the Soviet monopoly on precious metals collapsed, and I was the one who destroyed it. Following my lead were others. They had it easier - I was the one facing the headwinds, and they were in my slipstream.
Her Majesty Queen Sophia of Spain
at an exhibition of works by A. Ananov
There’s still good people in the world. After an extended period of shuttling between the various departments, I finally managed to register my cooperative and lease some space for a studio. That’s where the people came who gave it its start. The first people to believe in me. Here are their names: Vladimir Ratushev, Vitaly Kharlamov, Viktor Murov, Yuri Babkov. A bit later - Vladimir Kovalev, Vyacheslav Leonov, Mikhail Navrotsky, Valery Linsky, Andrey Shevchenko, Vadim Gusev. The irreplacable mechanic Pavel Smolkin.
We sat there together, at workbenches cobbled together ourselves from old office desks found at the dump. We had no money, the cracks let in drafts, there were rats living under the floorboards.
I dreamt aloud of the day when we would travel half the globe together, showing our wares at exhibitions, and become the first and the best. We would live well and go vacationing abroad.
I know how to be convincing. I learned the art of it working as a theater director, and brought the skill with me to the studio. And albeit not right away, my colleagues did believe me.
It’s only now that I can admit I was the last to believe in those sunny predictions. I convinced others, infused others with optimism, but never believed myself in the possibility of actually implementing my grand plans. But I never let it show. And I gave the collective my outward confidence.
And we did it.
Gorbachev with Raisa Maximovna
Our relationship was built on the principles of trust and mutual respect. I never looked in the pockets of my masters. I did away with the notion of gold “fever,” the thing that always leads to thievery at jewelery enterprises, because no matter how scrupulously a worker might account to management for precious metal, he always manages to accumulate a few grams of gold over the month. But then what to do with it? Present it to the boss?... I’m not an idealist. I know that the temptation is great and that gold gets siphoned off, turns into an “off-market” item or simply “leaks” from the studio. Now, it’s as if the “fever” had never existed, and the master worked with the storeroom metal until he turns it into a finished piece and recieves another lot from the storeroom.
At the Grimaldi Palace: Prince Albert carefully inspects a work created by A. Ananov. In the morning, Monte Carol awakes to a sensation - an Easter egg from Russia has just taken the Grand Prix at the Red Cross Ball, beating out the runner-up diamond choker by Cartier. 1994
At the firm I created conditions where the main requirement was to love the profession and abide by the canons of the old masters, who said: the face side of a piece is certainly beautiful, but that’s not where the master’s skill lies. That’s on the reverse side. And it’s by how painstakingly-crafted and perfect the “reverse” side of a piece looks that you can judge a jeweller’s true mastery.
With daughters Anna and Anastasia, 2014
And another thing. I’ve never tricked my colleagues. I’ve never hidden from them my own bitter experience with alcoholism, from which I was spared by my love of jewelery-making and my daughter Anyuta, haven’t concealed the prices I’ve sold our pieces to clients, haven’t obfuscated my life position, views or rules of personal behavior. That was true in everyday life, and in the crucial moments of our country’s turbulent history.
His Majesty the King of Thailand at the A. Ananov studio during an official visit to Russia in August 2007
And so, the studio has survived for twenty-five years already. New people have flocked to us one after the other. The main criterion in the selection process has always been love for the profession. Most jewellers who have scaled the heights of mastery here have previously worked in other industries: engineering, medicine, military, but they’ve all got one thing in common - at home in the kitchen, in their spare time, they’ve all crafted something with their own hands.
King and Queen of Malaysia
One day in Monte Carlo, I bought my first Mercedes on some money that I had won at the roulette table. It was revenge for the stud farm that my grandfather had once lost, also in Monte Carlo. And what of the jewelery art lost by Russia in 1917? I think I’ve managed to win that back too, having revived the high jewelery traditions of past years. And that’s my second revenge.
With daughter Olga, 2015
If I had followed the advice of my seafaring friends, I might have become a merchant seaman.
I could have stayed at university and worked as a physicist.
Or, as a trained director, I could have staged plays and taught students at the Theatrical Institute.
Finally, I could have fallen into despair and drunken myself to death, like so many talented people of my generation.
But I was lucky. I survived, I found my own way and I managed to devise the formula for immortality, a laconic missive to eternity: a few grams of gold, a bit of enamel, a sprinkle of diamonds, a piece of the heart and a breeze of inspiration. All sealed with the Russian mark “Ananov.”