Fabergé Egg is a series of jewelry in the form of egg made by the company of Carl Faberge. The series was created between 1885 and 1916 for the Russian imperial family and private buyers. In total, 71 copies are known to be created, of which 54 are imperial. The phrase Fabergé Egg has become synonymous with luxury and emblem of the wealth of the imperial house and pre-revolutionary Russia. It has also become one of the symbols of the country. Here is the unique story behind it.
The Brief History
The famous series of 50 imperial Easter eggs for the Russian imperial family was created between 1885 and 1916, when the company was managed by Peter Karl Faberge. These jewelry are inextricably linked with the heyday and tragic fate of the last representatives of the Romanov dynasty. They are the highest achievement of the famous Russian jewelry company and are considered one of the last outstanding works of art made to order. Ten jewelry eggs were created from 1885 to 1893 during the reign of Emperor Alexander III; 40 more were made during the reign of his son Nicholas II, two a year: one was intended for his mother, the Dowager Empress, and the second for his wife.
The series began in 1885 when Emperor Alexander III, through the mediation of his uncle, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, ordered an Easter egg from Fabergé as a gift for his wife, Empress Maria Fyodorovna. Faberge originally planned that a diamond ring would be hidden inside the egg, but in the finished version, according to the emperor, an expensive ruby pendant was placed instead.
The Eggs Were the Forms of Art That Could Not Be Rushed
Making each egg took almost a year. The structure of the Faberge Company was ahead of its time: the jewelry companies included in the concern were quite independent in their work. Many jewelers working for Faberge owned their own companies, but considered it an honor to participate in the execution of the imperial order. The names of the masters speak of the international composition of the team: of the 24 masters, 14 were from Finland or worked at the invitation of their relatives.
For the first step, the sketch of the egg had to be approved. Only after then, a whole team of company jewelers took up the job. A series of imperial eggs was so famous that Faberge produced several products for private customers (it is known about 15). Among them stands a series of 7 eggs donated by goldmaker Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch to his wife. In addition, there are 8 more Faberge eggs made to order (for Felix Yusupov, nephew of Alfred Nobel, the Rothschilds, the Duchess of Marlborough and unidentified persons). They are not as luxurious as imperial ones, and are not original, often repeating the type invented for royal gifts.
Perhaps for private individuals some more products were made, but they were never documented (unlike the tsar’s eggs), which leaves some freedom for skillful falsifiers. An example of an unexpected discovery is the “Rothschild Egg” put up for sale in autumn 2007, which was ordered by representatives of the clan at Faberge and kept among family property for a century without being advertised.
The eggs were made of gold, silver, precious stones, etc. Enamels and fine jewelry work were used. Sometimes the jewelers experimented with not very traditional materials such as rock crystal and precious varieties of wood. The proof of authenticity is the brand of Faberge.
The cost of one egg at the prices of the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries ranged from 1,500 to 28,300 rubles during The Russian Empire time. Today, these eggs are definitely priceless.
Sometimes eggs are larger than their actual size and larger than how they appear in the illustrations: some (with a stand) could reach a height of 20 cm. Traditionally, each one had to contain some kind of surprise. Often these were miniatures with portraits of the one to whom the egg was intended, and members of his family. Egg clocks with clockwork parts (roosters and cuckoos) were also created.
Of 71 known eggs, 65 have survived to this day. The vast majority of them are kept in state museums. Fifty four imperial eggs are known: to our time 48 pieces, made by imperial order, have been preserved; the rest are known from descriptions, accounts and old photographs and are considered lost. Only one of them, “Georgievskoe”, was able to leave Soviet Russia with its rightful owner in 1918, in the luggage of Empress Maria Fedorovna who had gone through the Crimea to her homeland, Denmark. The rest remained in Petrograd.
In total, in the historical homeland, in Russia, Faberge Eggs, which have become one of its symbols, can now be seen in four places. They are safely kept in the Armory and the Vekselberg collection, the State Hermitage Museum and the A.E. Fersman Mineralogical Museum, Moscow. The Moscow Russian National Museum (the private museum of Alexander Ivanov), previously had another egg, which since 2009 has been in the Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden (also the private museum of Alexander Ivanov).
Faberge Egg in the Modern Culture
Stylized images of Faberge Eggs are often used in the design of fabrics, wallpaper, silk scarves (the Faberge Eggs collection by Hermès, 1980s), dishes, jewelry and various jewelry (earrings, pendants, charm bracelets, etc.). The world’s most expensive handbag valued at $6.7million was made in the shape of a Faberge egg from an emu using almost 8 thousand diamonds, 24-carat gold, Cartier earrings for closure and a Hermès scarf of the same name as a lining (designed by Debbie Wingham in 2019).
Russia definitely has some of the most beautiful forms of art as its national symbols. Other than Faberge Egg, the country is also famous with its very fine and historical porcelain with also a unique story behind it.