Vodka, caviar and a muffle hat. Surely these are the things you friends asked you to bring from Russia. But from the Urals you can bring something more precious - jewelry made of Ural precious stones and gems.
The Ural Mountains are literally rich in all types of minerals. Remember the Kremlin 5 meter ruby stars in Moscow with emerald hammers and sickles. They were made by the Ural jewelers. Remember the green columns of St. Isaak's Cathedral and a malachite room in the Hermitage. That was a unique mosaic technique invented by the local masters when malachite was found here. Finally, did you know that the infamous Gold Rush started first in Yekaterinburg and 20 years later continued in California? It's true! Gold was found almost in the center of Yekaterinburg in the beginning of 19th century and every second citizen knew how to mine it. This Gold Rush wasn't as notorious as in California but many people did go off the rails and wasted money in a manner of today Russian oligarchs washing horses in champagne and building grotesque mansions. Later local gold miner Nickolay Doroshin set an expedition to Alaska. He didn't find gold there but shared his experience with the first gold diggers in Sacramento.
Nonetheless, it isn't gold but green malachite is the most popular stone here, the symbol of the Urals. Now I'm going to share a secret with you. These days malachite is scarce and all the malachite souvenirs that you find in Yekaterinburg are made of African stone. It's cheaper because of the poor quality. The difference is easy to detect: Ural malachite is deeper in color and has elaborate patterns. Still some street vendors and collectors have Uralski malachite extracted in the Soviet times and you can buy it at very fair prices. Terry a tourist from Canada bought a 3cm stone not long ago for 200 roubles (8$)!
Also take a look at the traditional gems studded framed pictures usually depicting Ural landscapes. They are very unique, rather cheap although can be heavy to carry. When buying gold jewelry you get a purchase certificate so don't worry about the customs.
To real savers I would advise to launch your own expedition to the mountains or to mine some gold near the town of Nevyansk. This area still abounds with gold!
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