On the Emergence of Russian-South African Business Links. Allan Bowe, Faberge’s Business Partner
Allan Bowe, a Cape-born entrepreneur in the Russian Empire, has not been mentioned in literature on the history of Russian-South African contacts. However, his long business partnership with Carl Fabergé should be considered in this context, primarily because it took place when Russia and the territories that are now part of South Africa, apparently, had no trade relations yet.
Henry Allan Talbot Bowe, known in Russia as “Allan Andreyevich Bo”, can be rightfully regarded as a South African. He spent his childhood and youth in the Cape Colony, mostly in Namaqualand, a region dominated by native speakers of languages that had originated in Africa.
Contrary to the established notion that “the exquisite artistic taste and amazing energy of Carl Fabergé” were the main reason for the international success of this business, it owed much to the work of his companion, A. Bowe. The latter contributed to the development of the largest jewellery company in the Russian Empire and its international reputation in the 1880s–1890s. As a founder and co-owner of the Fabergé Moscow branch, he organised and managed the largest jewellery factory in the country.
Bowe also expanded the company’s presence abroad by establishing the London branch (as a joint owner with Fabergé) and building up clientele securing orders for bespoke jewellery pieces in Europe, Southeast Asia and North America.
The first arrival of Bowe in Russia was almost accidental, but he became deeply involved in the business life of Moscow – so much so that he returned to that city after he had dissolved his partnership with Fabergé.
Being possibly the first successful South African-born entrepreneur in Russia, he deserves a prominent place in the history of relations between our countries. It implies that the emergence of Russian-South African business links can be traced to the 1880s, when Bowe started his business in Moscow.
Russian-South African trade, South African entrepreneurs in Russia, Allan Bowe, Carl Fabergé, W.A. Bolin, Shanks & Bolin, jewellery firms of the Russian Empire
1. Bonus W. The Faberge Connection: A Memoir of the Bowe Family. New York; Bloomington. iUniverse. 2010. 133 p.
2. Davidson A.B. Russia and South Africa before the Soviet Era. Working Paper. Moscow. Higher School of Economics. 2013. 39 p.
3. Davidson A.B. Filatova I.I. Rossiya i Yuzhnaya Afrika: tri veka svyazei (Russia and South Africa: Three Centuries of Contact). Moscow. Vysshaya shkola ekonomiki. 2010. 330 p.
4. Gorelik B.M. Rossiiskaya immigratsiya v Yuzhnuyu Afriku: vchera i segodnya (The Past and Current Russian Immigration to South Africa). Moscow. Institut Afriki RAN. 2007. 255 p.
5. Fabergé T.F. Kohler E.-A. Skurlov V.V. Fabergé: A Comprehensive Reference Book. Genève: Éditions Slatkine. 2012. 613 p.
6. Faberzhe T.F. Gorynya A.S. Skurlov V.V. Faberzhe i peterburgskie yuveliry: Sbornik memuarov, statei, arkhivnykh dokumentov po istorii russkogo yuvelirnogo iskusstva (Fabergé and Saint Petersburg Jewellers. A Collection of Memoirs, Essays and Archival Documents on the History of Russian Jewellery Art). Sankt-Peterburg. Neva. 1997. 703 p.
7. Faberzhe. Yuvelir Romanovykh (Fabergé. A Jeweller to the Romanovs). M. 2006. 224 p.
8. Godfrey D. Antiques and Bygones: Notes for South African Collectors. Cape Town. Timmins. 1967. 123 p.
9. Gundry M. Henry Allan Talbot Bowe and the Faberge connection. Familia: Quarterly Journal of the Genealogical Society of South Africa. 2015, vol. 52, No 3, pp. 42–53.
10. Langham-Carter R.R. Some light on the mystery of Allan Bowe. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library. 1970, vol. 24, No 4, pp. 255–257.
11. Langham-Carter R.R. The mystery of Allan Bowe, jeweller. Quarterly Bulletin of the South African Library. 1969, vol. 23, No 4, pp. 118–121.
12. McCarthy K. Fabergé in London: The British Branch of the Imperial Russian Goldsmith. Woodbridge, Suffolk. ACC Art Books. 2017. 240 p.
13. Munn G.C. Wartski: The First One Hundred and Fifty Years. Woodbridge. Antique Collectors’ Club. 2015. 287 p.
14. Muntyan T. Samotsvetnye bogatstva Rossii. Faberzhe i Denisov-Ural’skii (Hardstone Riches of Russia. Fabergé and Denisov-Uralski). Karl Faberzhe i mastera kamnereznogo dela. Samotsvetnye sokrovishcha Rossii (Carl Fabergé and Russian Master Lapidaries. Hardstone Treasures of Russia). Moscow. Moskovskii Kreml. 2011. pp. 15–51.
15. Muntyan T. Shanks, Bolin i Linke. Moskovskie imena (Shanks, Bolin and Linke. Moscow Personalities). Bolin v Rossii. Pridvornyi yuvelir kontsa XIX–nachala XX vekov. Katalog vystavki v Muzeyakh Moskovskogo Kremlya (Bolin in Russia. A Court Jeweller of the Late 19th–Early 20th Centures. The Catalogue of an Exhibition at the Moscow Kremlin). Moscow. Novyi Ermitazh-odin. 2001, pp. 103–110.
16. Muntyan T.N. Faberzhe. Velikie yuveliry Rossii. Sokrovishcha Oruzheinoi palaty (Fabergé. Great Jewellers of Russia. Treasures of the Armoury). Moscow. Krasnaya ploshchad’. 2000. 207 p.
17. Neizvestnyi Faberzhe. Proekty i izdeliya firmy Faberzhe iz muzeinykh i chastnykh kollektsii (Unknown Fabergé. Fabergé Designs and Items from Museums and Private Collections). Moscow. Moskovskaya shkola akvareli Sergeya Andriyaki; Russkii antikvariat. 2003. 127 p.
18. Ribbing M. Muntyan T. Skurlov V. Zavadskaya L. Dragotsennosti & serebro. V.A. Bolin – 200 let (Jewellery & Silver. V.A. Bolin – 200 Years). Vesteros. V.A. Bolin. 2000. 231 p.
19. Rossiya i Afrika. Dokumenty i materialy. XVIII v.–1960 g. (Russia and Africa. Documents and Materials. 18th Century to 1960) Moscow. IVI RAN. 1999, vol. I. 285 p.; vol. II. 397 p.
20. Trevelyan R. Grand Dukes and Diamonds: The Wernhers of Luton Hoo. London. Seeker & Warburg. 1991. 472 p.
21. Savin A.V. Moskva futbol’naya. Polnaya istoriya v litsakh, sobytiyakh, tsifrakh i faktakh (A Football Moscow. A Comprehensive History in Biographies, Events, Data and Facts). Moscow. Sport. 2016. 789 p.
22. Skurlov V. Odesskoe otdelenie firmy Karl Faberzhe (The Odessa Branch of the Firm Carl Fabergé). Deribasovskaya–Rishel’evskaya: Odesskii al’manakh (Deribasovskaya- Rishеlyevskaya: An Odessa Almanac), vol. 28. Odessa. Pechatnyi dom. 2007, pp. 213–221.
23. Sorokin V.V. Po Moskve istoricheskoi (Through the Historic Moscow). Moscow. Izdatel’skii Dom TONChU. 2006. 458 p.
24. Ukazatel deistvuyushchikh v Imperii aktsionernykh predpriyatii i torgovykh domov (A Directory of the Joint-Stock Companies and Trading Companies of the Russian Empire). 2nd ed, vol 2. Sankt-Peterburg. E. Vern. 1905. 1980 p.