Though black caviar has earned itself the moniker “Black Gold”, the tiny eggs are worth several times more per pound than even this ancient measure of wealth.

The first known record of caviar dates back to the Greek scholar Aristotle. He described this delicacy as “the eggs of the sturgeon, heralded into banquets amongst trumpets and flowers”. The Persians were the first to prepare and savor sturgeon roe, and even the word caviar itself comes from the Persian word khav-yar, which means cake of power.Also, historians say the tradition of salting fish roe for consumption actually originated in China.

But it was Russia and the Russian Tsars that upgraded caviar into the world of utter luxury. In Medieval Russia, caviar was peasants’ food, but by the 17th century, it had gained its association with connoisseurship. However, it was during Soviet times when caviar became Russia’s national brand. In the early 1950s, when the country started serious industrialization, dams were built on the major rivers so that sturgeons were blocked in their spawning runs. Russian scientists worked hard to figure out how to artificially spawn sturgeon. But the strict control on sturgeon harvesting and caviar production was diminished with the breakup of the Soviet Union, which eventually put the delicacy under the threat of disappearing.

Today Russia is the world’s second-biggest producer and exporter of caviar after Iran, though it, along with other CIS countries, had to ban the harvest and sale of black caviar from wild Beluga sturgeon in 2007, only resuming it in limited quantities in 2010.

The region in the Caspian Sea near Russia is famous for having the largest and highest quality caviar, which is also the most expensive. Some experts say, for example, that Chinese and American caviar are smaller and don't have the quality or flavor of caviar from the Caspian Sea.

There is also osetra, the dark-brown-to-golden stuff, which comes from the so-called “common” sturgeon, and salmon red caviar made on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, some experts comparing it with rubies. Interestingly enough, jewelry is a popular association with what was once described by a poet as the “finest tidbit in the world”, made in Russia.