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The history of artistic etching

The history of Zlatoust artistic school of production and decorative design of weapons and other metal handicrafts extends back over nearly 200 years.

The town of Zlatoust is situated in a magnificent place in the southernmost tip of the Urals. It was founded in 1754 as an ironworks center, but its prehistory started 80 years before the foundation. In the times of Tsar Alexey Mikchailovitch an expedition lead by boyar YackovTimofeevitchHitrovo was sent to the Urals. Its target was “To found a town on the hills over the rivers Tasmas and to find silver ore there”. The expedition was manned with masters including German metal-makers.

50 years later the family of Mosolovs, merchants from Tula, got a license for establishing a manufacture in this place. In addition to the territory given to them by the authorities they bought a large piece of land rich with iron ore, wood and water. As the great Russian metallurgist PavelPetrovitchAnosov wrote in his book “About Damascus steel”, “the place was ideal for iron works”. In those times the history of the Zlatoust hydraulic ironworks manufacture started.

The proprietary period of the factory’s history includes such events as changes of owners, the tragic happenings of Pugachev’s rebellion and the decay after its suppression. During the rebellion the factories of Zlatoust, Satkin and Kaslin were set on fire by insurrectionists. The next stage of the factory’s development was its forfeiture, which was followed by the organization of additional workshops.

When Emperor Alexander 1 ascended the throne, one of his first decrees was the Decree about forming of Russia’s arms base, which left much to be desired. It should be noted that by that time most weapons for Russian army were bought abroad.

But the Emperor’s decrees were not destined to be fully realized because of the Patriotic War against Napoleon in 1812. Their realization had to be put off until the victorious end of the war and foreign campaign.

On the 23-th of May, 1815, a session of the Council of Mining on the point of establishing of an arms factory was held. After examining of Zlatoust and Votkin factories the first was chosen as a more advanced one – when A. Knauf was its owner, production of different metal handicrafts (knives, scythes etc.) was got going by foreign specialists.

On the 3-th of July, 1815, the Edict of His Imperial Majesty on establishing of Zlatoust Arms Factory was issued.

Then two more Imperial Edicts were issued – about nomination of Anton Fedorovitch Furman as the new barmaster, and A. Eversman – as the director of the factory. A. Furman arrived to Zlatoust on the 1-st of October, 1815, and took up his duties, most of which were devoted to establishing of the new arms factory.

On the 3-rd of December, 1815, the Military Department sent to the factory 8 items of sample weapons.

To make the new factory’s work more efficient, a lot of armorers from the famous European arms centers, such as Solingen (Germany) and Clingental (France), were invited to work in Zlatoust.

The terms of contracts were quite favorable, that’s why different specialists – founders, blacksmiths, planishers, gilders etc. – were glad to be invited to the new factory. Foreign specialists and Russian masters shared experiences and taught each other a lot of things.

Along with usual weapons, Zlatoust factory always produced so-called honorary, or award weapons. An award weapon has always been one of the most honorable rewards in Russia, especially a blade with monogram “Захрабрость” (“For Valor”). Such weapons were known as “golden weapons”.

In 1819 the “Statement on the division of decorated arms” was officially confirmed. From that moment and till now the history of decorative working of weapons and other metal handicrafts in Zlatoust has never been interrupted.

Only the best masters were chosen for working in the “Division of decorated arms”. Their names were added to the “Golden list” of people who were the fathers of Zlatoust’s glory as a world-famous proprietor’s weapons center.

Among them names of such Russian and foreign masters as Wolfertsev (a blacksmith),Oligera (a quenching specialist), Gra (a planisher), Shafov (a gilder) should be highlighted.

The popularly accepted “fathers” of the experimental school of weapons’ decoration are Ivan Bushuev, Ivan Boyarshinov,PavelUtkinwasthe best blacksmith, David Ronzhin - the best planisher, Maxim Pelavin – the best graver.

The weapons from Zlatoust were superb not only because of the decorations, but also thank to the fruitful search of the secrets of ingot Damascus steel accomplished by the outstanding Russian metallurgist P.P. Anosov, Zlatoust barmaster.

The processes of producing incomparable blade steels and of new decor technologies search were interconnected. Zlatoust masters achieved success in both of them.

Pegasus on Zlatoust’s emblem is a specific award, a symbol of flight and of the “highest honor”.

Decorated weapons were sent from Zlatoust to the Mining department and to the Mining Cadet corps (which is now the National Mineral-extractive University in St.-Petersburg). From several hundred to 1000 award weapons were produced every year, and most of them are considered to be global masterpieces. During the 19-th century Zlatoust arms factory produced nearly 90 per cent of weapons for Russian army.

Decorated cold steel arms and metal handicrafts from Zlatoust were regularly awarded certificates and medals at Russian and worldwide exhibitions.

In Soviet period of Russian history the factory became the monopolist in producing cold steel weapons for the army and the only workshop where decorated arms were produced. Besides weapons, the factory produced and decorated such items as cigarette cases, hangers, photo frames etc.

The years rolled by and the attitude towards arm blanche changed.

The official name of Zlatoust Factory changed several times – it was called a “combine of complimentary industrial plants”, the “Mechanical engineering plant named after V.I. Lenin including a workshop named after M.V. Frunze”, factory “Ingot Damascus” with workshop number 16. By the end of 1980s the economic and political life of the country changed once again, and the life of the armory changed together with it. The factory and the workshop of decorating and artistic etching went into liquidation. And the highly skilled masters had no work to apply their talent and their gifted hands to.

But in those times which were hard for the whole country energetic people started to open first private workshops, and the tradition of producing and decorating of cold steel arms and metal handicrafts in Zlatoust were revived.