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
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