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Imperial Faberge Eggs - made for the Russian Imperial Families

Updated on May 30, 2012
The Peter the Great Egg
The Peter the Great Egg | Source
The last Russian Imperial Family.  Left to right standing:  Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Olga.  Left to right sitting:  Grand Duchess Maria and Tsarina Alexandra, Tsarevitch Alexi, Tzar Nicholas II, Grand Duchess Anastasia.
The last Russian Imperial Family. Left to right standing: Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Olga. Left to right sitting: Grand Duchess Maria and Tsarina Alexandra, Tsarevitch Alexi, Tzar Nicholas II, Grand Duchess Anastasia. | Source

In my travels to Russia and the Hermitage Museum, I greatly anticipated seeing the famous Imperial Faberge Eggs of the Russian Imperial Families designed and created before the Russian Revolution. I was not disappointed when I saw these beautiful, hand-crafted enamel and jewel encrusted eggs. Dazzling with their gold and colored jewels, each egg contained a surprise in the middle - small figurines or pictures, golden egg yolks, or a tiny timepiece. Each egg was unique and a personal gift from the reigning Tzar to his Tzarina. They were large, but exquisite, and these collections of Faberge Eggs show off a brief but brilliant time in Imperial Russian history.

These jeweled eggs were made by the House of Faberge from 1885-1917. The Imperial Eggs were large in nature, but the House of Faberge also made minature eggs that were popular gifts of the Russian wealthy and nobility at Eastertide. They were worn on a neck chain singlely or in groups. The larger eggs were made for Tzars Alexander II and Nicholas II of Russia.

There were fifty Imperial Faberge Eggs made in total and forty-two have survived. Seven of the large eggs were made for the wealthy industrialist, Alexander Kelch who lived in Moscow. The eggs are all made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with enamel and gem stones. They have become the symbol of luxury and masterpieces of the jeweler's art of Russia. All the Faberge eggs were made before 1917 and the Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution that ended the Imperial Russian Monarchy. When the Revolution began, the Faberge family left Russia in 1917 and, therefore, no more eggs were made in Russia.

The House of Faberge

The House of Faberg was a jewelry firm founded in 1842 in St. Petersburg Imperial Russia by Gustav Faberge. His son, Peter Carl Faberge became head of the jewely firm until it was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The House of Faberge is famous for designing elaborate jewel encrusted Faberge Eggs for the Russian Tzars and other jewelry pieces of high quality and intricate details.

The Faberge family can be traced back to 17th century France under the name FAVI in the village of La Bouteille in the Picardy region of northern France. Shortly after 1685, the FAVI family fled France because of religious persecution. The family kept moving eastward and changing their name under several variations of FAVI. By 1825, the family's name had evolved to Faberge and they were living in the Baltic area of Europe in what is today Estonia.

Gustav Faberge moved from Estonia to St. Petersburg, Russia in the 1830's. Here he trained as a goldsmith under Andreas Ferdinand Spiegel who specialized in making and creating gold boxes. He continued his training with Keibel, another goldsmith and jeweler to the Tzars of Russia. By 1841, Gustav Faberge had earned the title of Master Goldsmith and in 1842 he opened his own retail jewelry store, Faberge, in the basement shop of St. Petersburg fashionable shopping area.

Faberge added an accent to the last letter of the name to associate the name with the French because French was the language of the Russian court and urban nobility. France and the name Faberge became associated with luxury goods of royalty.

In 1860, Gustav Faberge retired to Dresden, Germany with his family. His son, Peter Carl Faberge continued his education in Dresden but returned to St. Petersburg in 1872 and worked under his mentor and tutor Hiskias Pendin at the Faberge jewelry firm. When Pendin died in 1882, Peter Carl Faberge became head of the House of Faberge. He then became involved with repairing and restoring objects in the Hermitage Museum.

Althought the House of Faberge exclusively made the Imperial Faberge Eggs for the Imperial Families, they made other creations other than eggs. They handmade miniature hardstone carvings of people, animals and flowers carved from semi-precious stones or hardstones and embellished with precious metals and stones. They also made photograph frames, jewelry, gold and silver boxes, desk sets and timepieces.

With the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the death of the last Imperial Russian family, Tzar Nicholas II and his family, the Faberge family left Russia and hence no more large eggs were made in Russia. Peter Carl Faberge settled in Lausanne, Switzerland, but died there in 1920 it is said of a broken heart at the death of the Imperial family and the fall of Russia to the Bolsheviks.

Since then, the Faberge trademark has been sold several times and several companies have retailed egg-related merchandise using the Faberge name. The trademark is currently owned by Faberge Limited and it also makes egg-themed jewelry.

The Russian Imperial Families

Tzar Alexander II began the tradition of giving a large Faberge egg to his Tzarina Empress Maria at Eastertide. She was so delighted by the egg gifts that Tzar Alexander appointed Peter Carl Faberge and the House of Faberge by special appointment to the Imperial Crown. Tzar Alexander commissioned another egg the following year. After that, Peter Carl Faberge was given complete freedom of design for future Imperial Easter Eggs. From this time on, their designs became more elaborate.

The eggs also became a Faberge family tradition each Eastertide. Not even the Tzar knew what form they would take. His only requirement was that each egg should contain a surprise which Peter Carl Faberge happily created and designed. Tzar Alexander II died on November 1, 1894 and the next Eastertide, his son, Nicholas II presented a Faberge egg to both his wife, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and to his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna.

Once the intial design for the egg had been approved by Peter Carl Faberge, the work was completed by an entire team of craftsmen: Michael Perdhin, Henrik Wigstrom and Erik August Kollin. The Imperial Easter Eggs brought great fame to the House of Faberge and the House had private clients as well as the Imperial families. The Duchess of Marlborough, the Nobels (of Nobel Prize fame), the Rothschilds (of France), and the Yusupovs were all private clients of the House of Faberge.

Of the sixty-five known large Faberge Easter Eggs made, only fifty-seven have survived to present day. Ten of the Imperial Easter Eggs are displayed at the Kremlin Armoury Museum in Moscow. The rest that Russia owns are on display at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Only one Imperial Easter Egg, the 1916 Order of St. George Egg, left Bolshevik Russia with its original owner, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna.

At the end of the Russian Revolution, the House of Faberge was nationalized by he Bolsheviks and the the Faberge family fled to Switzerland. The Romanov (Tzars') palaces were ransacked and the treasures moved to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Joseph Stalin, in 1927, had many eggs sold to so he could buy foreign currency. From 1930-33, fourteen Imperial Eggs left Russia and were wold to private people and companies. The largest gathering of Faberge Eggs outside of Russia was put together by Malcom Forbes and displayed in New York City. In 2004, when Forbes died, the eggs were auctioned at Sotheby's and purchased in its entirety by Victor Vekselberg. Also, the Cleveland Museum of Art houses one Imperial Faberge Egg.

For a brief time in Russian history, the opulence of the Imperial Families was represented by the stunning jeweled Easter eggs of the House of Faberge, which was forever associated with luxury goods for the nobility all over Europe. When we see the eggs today, we can think back into the past of a shining, quaint time for the Russian Imperial Families that ended far too soon for them.


Alexander III Equestrian Egg
Alexander III Equestrian Egg | Source
Moscow Kremlin Egg 1906
Moscow Kremlin Egg 1906 | Source
Memory of Azov Egg
Memory of Azov Egg | Source
Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg
Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg | Source

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  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    3 years ago from Taos, NM

    Ragoon House: So you have been to the Hermitage also. It is one of the highlights of my time living in Europe. I found it magnificent also and I know exactly what you mean. I especially loved the Faberge eggs. They also traveled to the U.S. for display and came to the Cleveland Museum of Art, so I saw them once again several years ago. It was fascinating. The Cleveland Museum of Art has one of the Faberge Eggs in its permanent collection. Thanks so much for visiting and reading this and I am so pleased you enjoyed it.

  • Rangoon House profile image

    AJ 

    3 years ago from Australia

    Suzette - these are absolutely magnificent. You are so privileged to have visited the Hermitage Museum. I have been there twice and marvelled at absolutely everything that I could see, which of course, was only a fraction of what was on exhibition. Thank you for sharing the beauty of Faberge eggs.

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Thank you so much for stopping by and reading. I enjoyed your comments.

  • manuspohr profile image

    manuspohr 

    6 years ago from Massachussets

    Nice job, is beautiful article, i love this articles and your this is.

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    What a fantastic experience you had. I'm sure your are treasuring those memories forever. When I was there I was on an American Express tour so we had so little contact with "real" people, but the ones I did come in contact with were wonderful. When a friend and I visited St. Basil's in Red Square two little old, old Russsian ladies in their boboushkas and who couldn't speak a word of English actually cried when we walked into the church/cathedral. They made the sign of the cross to us and we nodded yes and made the sign of the cross back and all four of us just stood there and cried. It was still the Soviet Union then, so there was no religion at that time. But, the two little old ladies must have been about in their 80's to have remembered and known about Christianity. I felt so sorry for them, not being able to openly practice their religion. As you say, the Russians were so hungry at that time for religion. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful experience each time you went there.

  • Gottabegod profile image

    Tracia Bussey 

    6 years ago from Southern USA

    Suzette - We would spend 2-3 weeks at a time there with a group that had traveled with us from the U.S., so we didn't get to stay with the Russians in their homes. Of course, all of the ones we met lived in 2-3 room apts., most having to share a bathroom with other families on their floor.

    We pioneered a church in 3 different cities and helped with founding a Bible College. We worked together with an established Russian minister who's father & grandfather were Christians during some very difficult days in Russian history.

    We had a huge effect with the teenagers and early 20's age group. They were so hungry to hear the gospel. We also gave away thousands of Bibles printed in the Russian language. One of the times that we gave away Bibles was on the first trip in 1992. The people were so anxious to get their hands on one that we were mobbed. I truly thought I might be crushed to death. There was a KGB officer who had been assigned to watch our every move (it was still early after the fall of Communism and the KGB were still very active). He actually stepped in and rescued me. Then he began helping us to hand out the Bibles!!

    Even though we didn't stay in their homes, we spent every waking hour with our new friends.

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Lohrraine: Thanks so much for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed this hub. They are fabulous and so interesting and I have been fortunate to see some of them in my lifetime. Thanks for stopping by.

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Gottabegod: I found the Russian people to be the same way. They wanted so much to be friends with us and communicate with westerners. The government leaves a lot to be desired, but the Russian people are great! Your experiences sound so interesting - you were on mission trips - were you able to live with some of the Russian people? I hope you were successful in your missions there and what a wonderful experience.

  • Lohrainne Janell profile image

    Lohrainne Janell 

    6 years ago from Fairfield, IA

    These eggs are gorgeous! I never knew much about them, so it was interesting to read about them. Thanks so much for writing it!

  • Gottabegod profile image

    Tracia Bussey 

    6 years ago from Southern USA

    Suzette-yes Russia is a fascinating place. We had the wonderful privilege of getting to know the people since we were there on mission trips. They were warm, hospitable, and open to friendship. It was an experience that I will treasure.

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Gottabegod: I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. Isn't Russia just the most interesting place to visit? It is so immmense and beautiful in its own way. I have never forgotten my trip there and it has left a lasting impression on me. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and comment. I appreciate your input!

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Mhatter99: Yes, these Easter eggs are fascinating to me also. And, beautiful and stunning. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate you stopping by.

  • Gottabegod profile image

    Tracia Bussey 

    6 years ago from Southern USA

    I greatly enjoyed reading this hub! I visited Russian 3 times between 1992 and 1994. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Thank you for writing such an informative hub on Faberge eggs. Voted up & interesting!

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    fascinating

  • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Hi Nell: Yep it was google that reminded me of the Faberge eggs. I say great minds think alike-lol. Seriously, it did bring back Russia memories for me so I thought I have to write about them as the are so beautiful. We even have one at the Cleveland Museum of Art and some years ago Cleveland did a showing of them. I was in Russia many years ago when it was still the Soviet Union! Yes, everyone, I am that old! Lol. But they do represent a special past in Russia's history. Thanks for reading Nell and for your votes- much appreciated!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    6 years ago from England

    Hi, They are gorgeous aren't they? I saw on the google that it was the birthday of Faberge' and actually thought about writing about it then totally forgot, and luckily I didn't because you did such a good job of it, you went to Russia? Wow! I love the Alexander egg, and the Memory of Azov, they would look great sitting on my fireplace! lol! great information, about something I knew nothing about, thanks! rated up! cheers nell

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