• May 22, 2022

Real Russian Nesting Dolls Versus Fakes

Today nesting dolls (a.k.a Babushka dolls or “matryoshka” dolls) available in the market are of very different qualities. It can initially be difficult to differentiate between the quality dolls and the fake ones made elsewhere. Indeed this problem is not unique to Russian gifts or nesting dolls, and because of the availability of fake dolls in the market, many individuals are leery of purchasing anything when they are not sure of the origin or authenticity. Many people find it hard to differentiate between a real Russian doll and fakes; however, with a little bit of practice and knowledge of what to look for, this task becomes quite easy. Real handmade dolls can be differentiated by their place of production (city or town), by the painting style, and by the artists that paint the intricate designs ラブドール . To make it easier to identify real nesting dolls and even identify the style and town in which they were painted, I’m providing a short by simple guide to help you find these best quality dolls.

In Russian cities such as Moscow or Saint Petersburg, nearly all of the nesting dolls sold in souvenir shops are of exceptional quality; however they also have exceptional prices. They are made from the best quality wood and raw materials (e.g. defect-free Lime wood, higher quality paints and gold trim). Larger seven, ten and fifteen piece nesting dolls are usually painted by trained professional master craftsmen. On the contrary, dolls sold by street vendors may be high quality and a great value, individual shoppers will need to have a discerning eye to identify the small defects and other problems that are common. Street vendors that sell these items usually purchase slightly defective nesting dolls wholesale from souvenir shops or directly from the artists themselves. If you seek a great deal, street vendors are the place to look but you should be should take your time, look at all of the nesting doll pieces, and ask for higher quality items – the sellers will be happy to help the smart shoppers.

The higher quality babushkas are made utilizing defect-free “blank” or unpainted nesting dolls. Some small defects in the wood are easily fixed by polishing or covering very minor divots and dents with starch glue to create a smooth surface. This is normal in Russia; however, these types of fixes to the wood are never seen in imitation nesting dolls made outside of Russia. The smooth surface is very important – good Russian artisans demand this so that they can apply paints evenly and include precision detailed painting. Russian nesting dolls that are very inexpensive will still often times have some defects – it is simply not economically feasible for artisans to try to achieve perfection in a five piece nesting doll and then sell this for 300 rubles on the street ($6.00 USD). If you come across a large expensive nesting doll with dents and defects, it is likely that it is very old or that it is not an authentic matryoshka doll.

The wood used for making Russian nesting dolls is taken from the Lime trees grown in Western Russia and throughout Siberia. Lime trees are famous worldwide for the soft but durable wood they produce, which is nearly perfect for wood-working and wood-carving. Interesting enough, many different Russian woodcutters specialize in crafting and cutting blank (unpainted) dolls, but usually they never take up painting these dolls. The woodcutters simply cut, sand and prepare blanks for artisans throughout Russia. They select the Lime wood trees based on quality, lack of defects, and the age. Fake dolls made outside Russia will often be plastic imitations, or utilize cheap pine wood or other low quality raw materials. The differences in wood type are easy to see once you handle the dolls.

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