Established in 1860, the firm of Tillander has endured as a prestigious purveyor of exceptional jewelry. However, its most impressive contributions came at a turbulent time in Russian history.

Alexander Edvard Tillander was born on June 30, 1837. At the tender age of 11, he began an apprenticeship with a barber in St. Petersburg. When it became clear this was not his calling in life, Tillander was sent to study with a Finnish master goldsmith. Following seven years of apprenticeship, Tillander began working for a German master, Carl Becks, who was a supplier for the Russian Imperial Court.

In 1860, Tillander opened his workshop in St. Petersburg. Over time, with hard work, his business began to flourish. Tillander earned a reputation for beautiful styling and quality craftsmanship. In keeping with the trend of the times, the firm’s assortment consisted mainly of classical revival jewelry, employing filigree and granulation. Tillander also did well with sales of objects d’art fashioned with precious materials. Alexander Tillander enhanced his reputation by creating several pieces for Fabergé.

Alexander Tillander, Jr. studied under three European master jewelers before returning to his father’s firm in 1890. He had gained the position as a representative of a Parisian manufacturer of diamond jewelry. Upon his return, he expanded the family business by exporting demantoid garnet, then a very popular gemstone in Russia. He also opened an offshoot of the business, selling second-hand jewelry. As the 20th Century dawned, he was running the business by himself, and business was steady.

In 1905, the first Russian Revolution rocked the country but had little effect on Tillander’s business. The Russian Imperial Court granted the firm a large number of commissions from 1909 to 1911. It is for these pieces that Tillander is perhaps best remembered.

Up until 1916, the jeweler maintained a steady custom and continued to profit. This prosperity ended following the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution, as it did for all Russian jewelry manufacturers.

Fortunately, the Tillanders had secured a significant portion of their assets abroad, so when they were forced to close the St. Petersburg shop, the business was able to migrate and survive. Sadly, Alexander Tillander, Sr. was shot by robbers two months after the shop closed, causing wounds that contributed to his demise the following year, on December 19, 1918. He was buried in Helsinki.

The younger Tillander remained in Finland following the family’s summer holiday in 1917. The next year, he partnered with Viktor Lindman, a Finnish Jeweler, reforming the family business in Helsinki, where it thrives to this day, safe in the hands of the family’s fourth generation.

Always, the firm stood for high quality and incomparable workmanship. Over the years, Tillander has continued to create breathtaking jewelry for a discerning clientele. In Finland, the name “Tillander” is synonymous with high-quality jewelry.

Following the assassination of Czar Nicholas II and his family in 1917, many of the jewels they owned were said to have been dismantled, then melted down, and the metals and loose gemstones sold to raise money for the new regime. Due to the clever maneuvering of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, unbeknownst to the new government, many of the royal jewels were smuggled out of Russia. She owned several historical pieces, as well as a number of exquisite jewels designed personally for her. Alas, the Duchess passed away in 1920 before she could reclaim her jewelry.

Alexander Tillander created a number of “Imperial Presentation” pieces that survived. One such is an Imperial Presentation Jeweled Gold Tie Pin, topped with a sparkling crown decorated with rose-cut diamonds above three round diamonds and a ruby. The pin was presented in a red leather box embossed with the Imperial eagle.

Another example is an openwork brooch that depicts the Imperial crown above a laurel wreath tied with a bow. Diamonds and a single ruby complete the look.

The Imperial Order of the White Eagle Sash Badge in gold and enamels was commissioned by Nicholas II to present to noble Russian supporters. The badge included a blue silk moiré Sash and came with a fitted red leather case stamped with the Imperial eagle.

Pieces that Tillander created for the Royal Family include a pair of circular gold and enamel cuff links, bearing the initials of Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, each accented with a diamond and topped with a gold crown; a lorgnette, crafted of platinum with black enamel, decorated with the rose-cut diamond-set crowned monogram “MP” for the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna; and a gold cigarette case with sapphire thumb-piece featuring the monogram “SM” for the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, grandson of Nicholas I. The Imperial crown was depicted below the monogram.