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  • Marc Melich-Mautner

Russian silver hallmarks on icons

Updated: Sep 16

Icons can be protected by a metal cover. A distinction is made between the following options:

  • Oklad: is the name given to a cover in which only faces and hands are kept free, the so-called incarnate, i. H. the uncovered parts of the body.

  • Riza: is the name of the cover that keeps the whole figure (e.g. mother and child) free and only covers the background.

  • Basma: is the name of the border that forms the frame and at the same time protects the icon.

The words riza and basma sometimes appear interchangeable in literature. These metal covers can be made of metals (e.g. brass) or often also made of handmade silver.

Old Russian silver clades usually have four characters, so-called hallmarks, which in our example are marked as follows from the left:


  1. Maker's mark: the mark of the silversmith who made this icon.

  2. City mark: in this case St. George as Moscow city hallmark.

  3. Inspection mark: the master inspector with his initials (in this example that of Michljajew Alexej Ivanov, who verifiably used the mark in 1802). Usually the hallmark is stamped with a year in a rectangular shape.

  4. Silver grade mark: (84 comparable to the 800 stamp). The Russian 84 stamp was not used until the 18th century.

Since 1613 there has been a stamp requirement in Moscow.

In addition to the Moscow city mark (lion), the most famous are:

  1. Suzdal: falcon

  2. Kiev: Archangel Michael with sword and shield

  3. St. Petersburg: two anchors and scepter in the shield

  4. Vladimir: Leo

  5. Pleskau (Pskow): leopard, walking to the left

Since 1700, on the instructions of Peter the Great, stamps have been compulsory throughout Russia, mostly with the city coat of arms.

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