Sable

The tsarina of furs. The Siberian people paid the iassak, the tax that ended up in the tsar’s personal coffers, in sable. The Monomachus’s crown, called a chapka and made of gold filigree over a gold base studded with precious stones and pearls, was trimmed with sable; sable also adorned the sumptuous jewel-encrusted cloak that the tsar wore for official ceremonies. Every possible eulogistic adjective or expression has been used to describe the magnificence of sable, and the French even compare it to a fluffy “mousse.” It has even been suggested that the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology, which was guarded by a dragon in the depths of a forest in Kolchis (today the country of Georgia), was in fact sable. Long before the discovery of oil, it was universally considered black gold. Despite the presence of sable in Asia, North America, and Europe, the history of the fur runs hand-in-hand with that of Siberia. In that unbounded empty land it played the same role as gold in the Gold Fever in Canada and Alaska. The poor animals were the object of such indiscriminate hunting that at the beginning of the 20th century it had disappeared from vast regions of the Russian empire and the Tsarist and then the Soviet governments had to take protective measures. Russian sable (Martes zibellina) has thick, shiny, silky fur in a myriad of hues from brown to light beige, to almost white. It is undisputed that the best is the Barguzinsky, named after the region of Barguin, near Lake Baikal. Breeding, which started in the Soviet Union in 1931, focuses on dark colors, but Nature has created the Royal sable, by transforming an anomaly into a virtue: in the Royal sable, a lack of pigmentation in the tips of the fur creates an incredible silvery sheen that brings an extraordinary beauty to its appearance. Sable is as precious today as it was in the past, when it was part of the Tsars’ Great Treasure. When the Russian aristocracy fled the country, they took with them sable pelts, not money.