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The Armory Chamber and the Diamond Fund

For several centuries, from the 14th century to the beginning of the 19th century, the Armory Chamber was the treasury of the Russian tsars and the great knyazes of Moscow. The most famous jewelry and great diamonds of Russia for its long history are stored here.Once upon a time, only nobles could see all these unique jewelry... Today, everyone can get acquainted with the work of outstanding Russian and foreign jewelers.

Address and working time

The Armory Chamber and the Diamond Fund are located on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin.

Opening hours - daily from 10.00 to 17.20. Lunch break is from 13.00 to 14.00. Thursday is a day off.

History of creation

With the growth of the Russian state, its treasury was also enriched. In 1484-1485 a stone building of the Courtyard was built between Arkhangelsk and Annunciation Cathedrals. The treasures of the Moscow Kremlin were transferred there. So the treasury has turned from personal to state.

The workshops  where precious objects were made  were located in the chambers - stone rooms - of the Moscow Kremlin. Hence the name – the Armory Chamber.

At that time, the working conditions of craftsmen involved in the manufacture of gold and silver products were very difficult. They worked from dawn to dusk. Their salary ranged from 8 to 40 rubles per year which was barely enough for the necessary expenses such as food and clothing.

During the reign of Peter the Great many masters of the Armory Chamber were transferred to St. Petersburg.And in 1719, the Diamond Fund was created in accordance with the regulations issued by Peter the Great, according to which valuable jewelry and coronation regalia belonged to the state and were stored in the treasury in a chest with 3 locks.Only three people throughout the empire - three officials - had access to it.Each of them had 1 key from 1 lock. And only when they came together during the ceremonies, they could take precious items.The chamber - a room built to store items - was called the Diamond Fund, and later the Diamond Room. During the reign of the Romanovs, the room was called the Diamond Room.

In 1806-1809 on the site of the chambers of Boris Godunov, a special building was built for the Armory Chamber.However, it was not suitable for storing valuables since there was no heating because of the danger of fires.Exhibits due to inappropriate storage conditions deteriorated from damp and cold.

During the war of 1812 the treasures of the Armory Chamber were moved to Nizhny Novgorod but a year later were returned to Moscow. It was then that the Armory Chamber became a museum, open, however, only to nobles and merchants.In 1851 a new building of the Armory was finally built  in which the museum is located now.

Interesting Facts

  • There are about 4,000 exhibits in the nine halls of the museum  including the legendary Monomakh hat, Catherine the Second coach, the throne of Boris Godunov and many others;
  • Various types of weapons, military armor were also produced in the Armory Chamber. Therefore, this building is called the Armory;
  • In the 17th century, the price of light armor in Russia was 10 rubles.The armor consisted of about 60,000 small rings weighing from 6 to 10 kg. If the master worked for 10 hours a day, then with an average speed of work he needed about 2 years to make only one armor;
  • Ordinary warriors could not afford such an expensive uniform. They used metal plates as armor that were sewn into quilted jackets and hats;
  • An important place in the collection of the Armory Chamber is occupied by diplomatic gifts to Russian tsars. There was a custom to present valuable items at that time — silver, gold, items made from rare materials and precious stones — to maintain friendly relations. A tsar could refuse the gift if he considered it unworthy of his rank.It is noteworthy that on the etiquette of that time only higher-ranking people could present money to the representatives of lower classes and not vice versa;
  • Now the Diamond Fund can be compared with the collections of the British Crown only. There are no analogs in the world;
  • The treasures of the Diamond Fund are national treasures and are managed by the state treasury under the Ministry of Finance of Russia.

What you should definitely see in the Armory Chamber and the Diamond Fund

The diamond "Orlov"

The history of this diamond began in the 17th century, when one of the world's largest diamonds weighing 400 carats was found in the mines of Golconda in India.The diamond got to Shah Jahan who ordered to cut the diamond with the maximum preservation of its weight and natural facets.However, when cutting, it was not possible to maintain its weight and as a result it lost more than half of the weight.In faceted condition it weighed 194.8 carats.Initially, the stone was called the "Great Mughal."According to the legend the stone was the eye of the statue of Brahma in the temple of Seringa-mat. However,  it was abducted. Further, the stone was repeatedly resold. In 1767 the gem fell into the hands of the Armenian merchant Gregory Safras. After 5 years he resold the stone for 125,000 Russian rubles to the court jeweler Ivan Lazarev. Lazarev, on the other hand, resold it to Count Orlov for 400,000 rubles, a life pension of 2,000 rubles a year and a noble letter. Count Orlov hoped to return a romantic relationship with Empress Catherine the Second and gave her a stone in her name day on November 24, 1773. However, he failed to regain her favor. In 1784 the diamond was renamed. Catherine the Second named it in the honor of the count Orlov and ordered to insert a stone into the scepter.

Diamond "Shah"

Diamond has an unusual elongated natural shape. There are 3 Persian inscriptions on the stone. The gemwas found in the second half of the 16th century. Until 1829, it "changed" 3 owners  as evidenced by their names engraved on the stone.

However, a tragedy occurred on January 30, 1829 - a Russian diplomat and writer Griboedov was killed in Tehran. In order to gain the emperor’s mercy, the Persian prince went to Petersburg and handed Nicholas the First one of the most important Persian treasures - the diamond "Shah". So the conflict associated with the death of the Russian diplomat was exhausted.

Crown of Catherine the Second

The crown was made in 1762 for the coronation of the future empress. It is adorned with 5,000 diamonds and 75 pearls. The length of the lower circumference of the crown is 64 cm, the height is 27.5 cm. A giant spinel crowns the precious item.

The main imperial symbols of power – the Golden Power and the scepter

Golden Power represents a smooth polished golden ball entwined with a diamond garland. The Power is crowned with sapphire of Ceylon origin of 200 carats. The weight is 861 grams.

Interesting fact! The diamond “Orlov” in the scepter, the blue sapphire in the Golden Power and the scarlet spinel in the crown symbolize the colors of the Russian flag - white, blue, red.

 

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