A Russian Niello-Silver, Opera Walking Cane. Moscow, 1900
The stylized pistol-grape of this elegant piece is 9 cm high x 18 cm alongside x 9 cm to the side. It is skillfully fashioned with black in-fill in the Niello manner, the detail is wonderful. Engraved at the bottom in Cyrillic characters with a very well designed calligraphy, we read the inscription Кавказ which means: Caucasus, it could possibly be a presentation gift to a governor or a representative person of this strategic region? It is also personalized with the first owner name, see pictures, a shield is also engraved with the commemorative date:1900. There are maker’s initials and hallmarks with the traditional 84 for the zolotniks, (875 silver parts per 1000). It is on top of a macassar-ebony shaft, ending with a bimetal ferrule and the OL is 91 cm. With any chips or cracks, only the wear of little use, the condition is excellent.
Niello, also called Tula, is an alloy made of silver, lead and copper adding a certain amount of Sulphur. This mixture creates the typical greyish-black enamel like filling. To bring the Niello on to the silver, a pattern must be etched, engraved or cut out of the workpiece leaving gaps. Using an open flame or oven, these gaps are then filled with the melted Tula. Because of the difficulty of this process and time consuming, this Russian speciality is today almost extinguished.