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Faberge - The Most Magnificent Easter Eggs

Updated on September 17, 2016
Rangoon House profile image

I am an idealist, an optimist, a romantic, often a traditionalist. I like to see and write about the good, or how things can become better.

Each Faberge Imperial Egg Has An Exquisite Easter Surprise

The Faberge Tsarevich Egg 1912
The Faberge Tsarevich Egg 1912 | Source
The Faberge Tsarevich Egg And Surprise 1912
The Faberge Tsarevich Egg And Surprise 1912 | Source

The Tsarevich Egg was created in 1912 for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, enclosing a surprise diamond-encrusted tribute to her son, the Tsarevich Alexis.

What Is A Faberge Imperial Egg?

A Faberge Imperial Egg is an annual Easter egg, created by goldsmiths at the House of Fabergé in Saint Petersburg, Russia, for the Imperial family between 1885 and 1916.

Each Faberge Imperial Egg is truly personal and literally filled with beauty and love.

Tsar Alexander III commissioned the first objet d'art for his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, in 1885. It was a white enamel egg enclosing a gold yolk and a gold hen, and inside the hen was a miniature diamond replica of the royal crown and a miniature ruby egg pendant. The Empress' delight with this Easter gift and the wonderful surprise within, began the Imperial tradition of giving a Faberge egg each Easter.

Tsar Alexander III presented a Faberge Easter egg each year to his wife from 1885 until his death in 1894. HIs son Tsar Nicholas II continued the tradition upon his death and presented eggs to both his mother, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, and his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, from 1895 to 1916.

There were no Imperial eggs manufactured during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 and 1905. The first post-war egg was the Rose Trellis Egg gifted to Empress Alexandra for Easter 1907. There were no Imperial eggs presented after the abdication of the Romanov throne following the 1917 Russian Revolution, although two eggs were made in preparation for Easter 1917 and1918, which were never purchased or presented by the Imperial family. Some reports therefore refer to the existence of 52 Faberge Imperial Eggs, although only 50 were gifted by the royal family.

Each egg would take a year to make, under the greatest secrecy, with the House of Faberge having unlimited artistic licence to create their own designs. The only Imperial criteria was that there must be a surprise within the egg.

Of the 50 Faberge Imperial Eggs, 43 remain in private collections, museums and institutions throughout the world. The remaining seven are thought to be lost to history, however one egg considered lost - the 1887 egg - was revealed to the world as late as 2014 when a Midwestern American scrap metal dealer purchased a gold trinket at a flea market for $US14,000. (1) The trinket was egg-shaped with a diamond encrusted gold watch inside, made by Workmaster Vacheron Constantin, and Peter Carl Faberge of the House of Faberge, and is now estimated to be worth $US33 million. (2)

Source (1) - http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/where-you-can-see-fabled-imperial-russia-faberge-eggs-180954863/#dQqzJoMfLkqxcPcC.99

Source (2) - http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/20/world/faberge-third-imperial-egg/

The First Faberge Imperial Egg - The Hen Egg - Created In 1885

The Faberge Hen Egg And Surprise 1885
The Faberge Hen Egg And Surprise 1885 | Source

The Provenance Of The First Faberge Egg - The Hen Egg 1885

Tsar Alexander III presented The Hen Egg to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, at Easter, in April 1885. This was the first Imperial egg produced. It was made of gold, diamonds, rubies and enamel, and contained a gold yolk, which contained a gold hen, which contained a miniature diamond and ruby replica of the Imperial crown.

The 2.5 x 1.5 inch (6.4 x 4 centimetre) egg was created by Workmaster Erik Kollin, and Peter Carl Faberge at the House of Faberge in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The Hen Egg is an object of Russian historical significance. It was transferred to the Kremlin Armoury in 1917, and was subsequently sold to a European dealer, before Christies of London sold it to Lord Grantchester in 1934. New York antiques gallery, A La Vieille Russie, acquired the egg in 1976, and Malcolm Forbes of the Forbes Magazine Collection purchased the egg in 1978. The Forbes family sold a collection of Faberge Imperial Eggs to Russian oil and gas tycoon, Victor Vekselberg, in 2004. (3)

Victor Vekselberg bought the largest private collection of Faberge Imperial Eggs in 2004, and says the collection “represents perhaps the most significant example of our cultural heritage outside Russia. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back to my country one of its most revered treasures.” (4)

Source (3) - http://www.mieks.com/eng/1885-Hen-Egg.htm

Source (4) - http://www.forbes.com/2004/02/04/cx_pm_0204fabergesale.html

Easter Is The Greatest Celebration Of The Russian Year

Beautiful Russian Easter Eggs
Beautiful Russian Easter Eggs | Source

Easter is the most honoured religious celebration of the year in Russia, and inspired the beauty, surprise and commemorative sentiment of each Faberge Imperial Easter Egg.

"Easter in Russia is a lot more than a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a long and powerful tradition that could not be eliminated even by the communists. Easter cleanses our souls and thoughts. It brings peace, joy and hope." (5)

The tradition of Easter in Russia almost died during the 70 year Soviet history, during which time churches were closed or destroyed and religious believers were persecuted. The political eras of Perestroika and Glasnost opened, restructured and eventually dissolved the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, and offered Russians the opportunity to return to their Orthodox beliefs and traditions.

Families now gather again in the honoured traditions of the holy week leading up to Easter to spring clean their homes, bake Easter bread, make Easter Paskha (a traditional cheesecake), and to paint Easter eggs on Holy Thursday. Russians believe that Easter eggs possess magical powers to protect crops, keep farm animals healthy and ward off evil spirits, and an Easter egg built in the foundation of a house brings happiness and prosperity to the owners. Easter eggs are Russia's lucky charms.

The porcelain, crystal and wooden Easter eggs which were hidden and stored by individuals and museums during the Soviet-imposed blackout of religious traditions have re-emerged, including many of the magnificent Faberge Imperial Eggs, the most beautiful charms of all.

Source (5) - http://www.russlandjournal.de/en/russia/national-holidays/easter/

Each Imperial Easter Egg has a unique sentiment.

The Faberge Renaissance Egg 1894

The Faberge Renaissance Egg 1894
The Faberge Renaissance Egg 1894 | Source

The Renaissance Egg was the last Faberge Imperial Egg gifted by Tsar Alexander III to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, for Easter 1894. He died in November 1894.

The Faberge Rosebud Egg 1895

The Faberge Rosebud Egg 1895
The Faberge Rosebud Egg 1895 | Source

The Rosebud Egg was the first egg Tsar Nicholas II presented to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

The egg contains a yellow enamel rosebud, which originally contained a surprise golden crown encrusted with diamonds and rubies, and a cabochon ruby pendant.

The Faberge Rose Trellis Egg 1907

The Faberge Rose Trellis Egg 1907
The Faberge Rose Trellis Egg 1907 | Source

Tsar Nicholas II presented the Rose Trellis Egg to his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. This was the first Imperial egg produced since the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. It was made of gold, diamonds and enamel.

The surprise was a diamond necklace and a diamond framed miniature portrait of the Tsarevich, Alexei Nicholaievich.

The Faberge Story

The House Of Faberge

The House of Faberge flourished on Bolshaya Morskaya Street in the financial centre of the Russian Empire in Saint Petersburg from 1842 until 1917.

It is estimated that the House of Faberge in Saint Petersburg, followed by branches in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London, produced over 150,000 Easter eggs, objets d'art and jewels. (6)

The Russian Imperial family ordered Faberge gifts to present to visiting Heads of State from 1869, and the spotlight on Faberge was further boosted in 1882, when Empress Maria Feodorovna purchased a pair of Faberge cufflinks for her husband, Tsar Alexander III, at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow.

Faberge was appointed 'Goldsmith by Special Appointment to the Imperial Crown', and the House of Faberge grew to become one of the largest European jewellery companies, and supplied most of the gifts exchanged by relatives of the royal families in Russia, Denmark, Germany and England.

Source (6) - http://www.tatianafaberge.net/history/

Who Was The Faberge Family?

Gustav Fabrier (1814-1893) moved from present day Estonia to Saint Petersburg in the 1830s to train as a goldsmith with Andreas Ferdinand Spiegal, and later with the goldsmiths and jewelers to the Tsars, Keibel.

Gustav, who had changed his surname to Faberge by 1825, opened his own jewelry business called "Faberge" in 1842. It is considered that he changed his name to appeal to the French-speaking Russian court and nobility.

Gustav's son, Peter Carl Faberge (1846-1920), worked for his father after a "grand tour of Europe", where he studied jewelry making in France, Germany and England, and managed the House of Faberge from 1872.

Carl's younger brother, Agathon, also joined the family business as creative designer and the two brothers introduced objets d'art - gold, enamel and jeweled items - in addition to their traditional jewelry lines.

The Rise And Fall Of Faberge

The House of Faberge had become one of the most internationally awarded and largest jewelry firms in Europe by the early 1900s. More than 500 craftsmen and designers were employed to produce jewels, silver tableware and objets d'art for European nobility.

The First World War all but destroyed the Faberge dream with employees drafted into the army, workshops converted into ammunition factories, and the demand for brilliant jewels reduced to a market seeking only basic items made from inferior metals.

Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the consequent Bolshevik takeover of his company, and the murder of the Imperial family, Faberge fled to Switzerland, where he died in 1920 from what his family considered to be a broken heart.

The Faberge Story Told By The World's Greatest Curators

Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé
Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé

This is a beautiful book including 350 illustrations of the magnificent Faberge objets d'art. It is an historical and artistic resource book of excellent quality.

The world's most authoritative sources on Faberge and specifically Faberge Imperial Eggs have contributed to this collector's book - author Alexander von Solodkoff, formerly of Christie's, London; Christopher Forbes; Paul Schaffer of A La Vieille Russie in New York; and A. Kenneth Snowman of Wartski, London - all representatives of companies who have curated the greatest collections of Faberge Imperial Eggs in the world.

 

Other Faberge Eggs

Faberge made seven eggs for industrialists Alexander and Varvara Kelkh, and also for the Duchess of Marlborough, the Nobels, the Rothschilds and the Yusupovs.

The House of Faberge made a total of 65 eggs, including the 50 Imperial eggs, and 57 have survived.

Where Are The Faberge Eggs Now?

The surviving Faberge eggs are held in private or museum collections and can be seen in permanent or travelling exhibitions.

The Soviet government began selling Faberge items, including Faberge eggs, in the 1930s, following the Bolshevik closure of the House of Faberge in 1918 and Carl Faberge's death in 1920. Approximately 25,000 Faberge items have been sold at auction since the first Faberge auction at Christie's London in March 1934, which was soon followed by a Sotheby's London auction in January 1935.

The Lost Third Imperial Egg 1887 Was Rediscovered In 2014

The Faberge Third Imperial Egg 1887
The Faberge Third Imperial Egg 1887 | Source

The Incredible Story Of The Lost Faberge Third Imperial Egg

Renowned Fabergé Expert Dr. Géza von Habsburg assessed the Third Imperial Egg, which was revealed to the world in 2014, after disappearing in 1964. The Third Imperial Egg was created in 1887.

‘The egg is absolutely genuine and fits perfectly into the timeline of the 52 known Imperial eggs. It corresponds to the one line description in the accounts of the Imperial Cabinet: "Easter egg with clock, decorated with diamonds, sapphires and rose-cut diamonds" and again to a reference in the account books dated 1887 ‘To the jeweller Fabergé for an egg with a clock, 2160 roubles’. (7)

It is recommended that any person wishing to acquire a guaranteed authentic Faberge Imperial Egg visit Christie's or Sotheby's in London or New York, or Wartski in London or A La Vieille Russie in New York.

Source (7) - http://www.faberge.com/news/164-fabergeimperialeggfound.aspx

The Faberge Constellation Egg 1917 Was The Last Imperial Egg

The Faberge Constellation Egg 1917
The Faberge Constellation Egg 1917 | Source

The Sad Story Of The Last, Unfinished Faberge Imperial Egg

The Constellation Egg of 1917 was the last Faberge Imperial Egg.

In a complete state, it was to be presented to Tsar Nicholas' wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at Easter in 1917, but it was never completed.

The Russian Revolution started on 08 March 1917. Tsar Nicholas abdicated his throne one week later on 15 March 1917. Easter was three weeks later, but the Tsar (or Nicholas Romanov as he was then known) did not purchase the Constellation Egg and consequently, never presented it in the customary Russian Imperial Easter tradition.

The Exquisite Detail Of The Imperial Faberge Eggs

A Comprehensive List Of The Faberge Imperial Eggs 1885 - 1916

1885 - The Hen Egg

1886 - The Hen With Sapphire Pendant Egg

1887 - The Third Imperial Egg

1888 - The Cherub With Chariot Egg

1889 - The Necessaire Egg

1890 - The Danish Palaces Egg

1891 - The Memory of Azov Egg

1892 - The Diamond Trellis Egg

1893 - The Caucasus Egg

1894 - The Renaissance Egg

1895 - The Rosebud Egg

1895 - The Blue Serpent Clock Egg

1896 - The Rock Crystal Egg

1896 - The Twelve Monograms Egg

1897 - The Imperial Coronation Egg

1897 - The Mauve Egg

1898 - The Lilies Of The Valley Egg

1898 - The Pelican Egg

1899 - The Bouquet Of Lilies Clock Egg

1899 - The Pansy Egg

1900 - The Trans-Siberian Railway Egg

1900 - The Cockerel Egg

1901 - The Basket Of Wild Flowers Egg

1901 - The Gatchina Palace Egg

1902 - The Clover Leaf Egg

1902 - The Empire Nephrite Egg

1903 - The Peter The Great Egg

1903 - The Royal Danish Egg

1907 - The Rose Trellis Egg

1907 - The Love Trophies Egg

1908 - The Alexander Palace Egg

1908 - The Peacock Egg

1909 - The Standart Yacht Egg

1909 - The Alexander III Commemorative Egg

1910 - The Colonnade Egg

1910 - The Alexander III Equestrian Egg

1911 - The Fifteenth Anniversary Egg

1911 - The Bay Tree Egg

1912 - The Tsarevich Egg

1912 - The Napoleonic Egg

1913 - The Romanov Tercentenary Egg

1913 - The Winter Egg

1914 - The Mosaic Egg

1914 - The Catherine The Great Egg

1915 - The Red Cross With Triptych Egg

1915 - The Red Cross With Imperial Portraits Egg

1916 - The Steel Military Egg

1916 - The Order Of Saint George Egg

Faberge Eggs Inspired My Travel Souvenir Collection

My Personal Collection Of Crystal Eggs From Saint Petersburg
My Personal Collection Of Crystal Eggs From Saint Petersburg

I lived in Russia in 1995, and visited Saint Petersburg twice, taking the midnight train from Moscow and arriving in the beautiful northern city around 8am the next morning. Saint Petersburg was certainly my favourite city in Russia - it was colourful, traditional, historical, and enormously proud of its artistic and cultural heritage.

We stayed on both occasions at the Astoria Hotel - one of the true five star hotel experiences in the world, with unrivalled super-super-sized king beds that intrigue me to this day. The hotel boasts a compelling history through the pre-revolution, second world war, communist and post-Soviet eras, including Adolf Hitler's victory party preparations and the audacious printing of his event invitations!

We would easily stroll Saint Petersburg from the hotel, including several marvelling visits to The Hermitage, The Winter Palace, Mariinsky Theatre, Saint Isaac's Square, Neva River boat cruises, canal gondola rides, and easy tour access to The Summer Palace.

Most relevant to my collection of crystal eggs however, the Astoria Hotel was in delightful walking distance to Nevsky Prospect, where I fell in love with my own objets d'art (pictured above). Whilst Easter holds multi-dimensional religious and political significance to Russians, the regard I have for my crystal eggs lies more personally in the symbolism of fertility, and the collection of seven eggs represented the number of years my husband and I had been married at that time.

This precious collection inspired my broader travel souvenir collection, where I choose an item unique to the country, but one which will forever take pride of place in my home, rather than degenerate into a faded and easily disposable memory.

Have You Seen A Faberge Imperial Egg?

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The Faberge Kremlin Egg (1906) Plays Easter Hymns

The Faberge Kremlin Egg 1906
The Faberge Kremlin Egg 1906 | Source

Tsar Nicholas II presented the Kremlin Egg to his wife, Empress Alexandra.

The Kremlin Egg is the largest of the Faberge Imperial Eggs, and was inspired by the Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow, where all Tsars of Russia were crowned. It is one of the few Faberge Imperial Eggs to have remained continuously in Russia.

It's surprise is music! The base of the egg is a music box that plays two of the Tsar's favourite Easter hymns.

© 2008 AJ

What Do You Think Of The Faberge Imperial Eggs?

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    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 15 months ago from Australia

      Thank you Jean. What amazing stories your mother-in-law and husband's grandmother must have had! The Russians do have some wonderful traditions, and even though some went underground for decades, it is extremely special to see them resurface and be honoured again.

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 15 months ago from Australia

      I like your pragmatism. A dozen fresh eggs would certainly be far more useful than a Faberge egg, even if not quite as beautiful!

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 15 months ago from New Jersey

      How fascinating! It's hard to imagine the artistry that went into these eggs, and the money spent on them! My Mother in law was Russian, and she always gave me lovely painted eggs for Easter, it is a big holiday in that culture. Her Mother was born in Russia and left right before the revolution.

      Thanks for you kind comments on my excitement about getting the million views. Keep on writing interesting hubs like this, and you will get there too.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 15 months ago from Philippines

      I have heard of Faberge eggs, but never knew the history associated with these lovely pieces. I'm not a fan of lush living, but I do love the history and the thought and artistry and artisanship that go with the making of these Faberge eggs. But a dozen real eggs would suit me just fine, the kind that come from live chickens and served with toast and jam.

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 15 months ago from Australia

      Hi Alun, It's so wonderful to read your appreciation of the Faberge Imperial Eggs, especially when they haven't always been appreciated by even the greatest museums and galleries. I am sorry to steal your thunder, but am so glad you visited, and hope you've since found a new angle.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 15 months ago from Essex, UK

      Bit disappointed to see this article - but only in the nicest possible way! I was planning to write a hub on Faberge eggs myself, before I saw this - now I will have to either abandon that plan or think of a new angle :)

      I can't say I'm an objet d'art fanatic, but these eggs are just so intricate, so unique and so beautiful, with such interesting stories behind them and a prestigious regal history. To my mind there is no finer collection of art objects in the world, and its just a pity they are not all kept together as a genuine complete collection. Nice to see so many on one page AJ !

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      Hi DJ - thank you so much for visiting, especially given your own personal interest in beautiful eggs. It sounds to me like you should develop your interest again. I really appreciate your endorsement.

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      Thank you so much Anne. The Faberge Imperial Eggs are absolutely exquisite. It would be wonderful if there was ever a touring exhibition in Australia.

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      How obvious it now all is Phyllis - thank you so much for taking the time to respond.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      Rangoon, what an educational article about these magnificent eggs!

      I have been a fan of eggery since I was in my early 20's. Found a book

      on eggery and created about a dozen eggs with scenes on the inside.

      One was a gift to my brother. The others were donated to be sold to

      raise funds for a campaign against drugs.

      I learned so much about the craft. Wish I had kept up this hobby.

      Thank you for this article and bringing up some fond memories from

      my past.

      Super article!

      Voted up, interesting and beautiful and shared!

      DJ.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      An amazing article - thank you - such amazing works of art. They reflect a world long gone. Perhaps one day I will see one!

      Voted up

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Useful, Awesome, Beautiful, and Interesting. Plus I shared with my hubber followers with H+. Well deserved endorsements.

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      Wow Phyllis - I'm over the moon that you enjoyed these special Easter eggs so much. I don't yet understand what all your endorsements mean, but I'm very happy than thank you enormously.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      I would love to own a Faberge Imperial Egg. They are exquisite ! Thank you so much for this wonderful, educational hub.

      Up,U,A,B,I and H+

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      I think the Russian Imperial Family had some of the most beautiful items the world has ever seen. Thank you for visiting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      beautiful eggs, these antiques should fetch a hefty price in the market. I guess only the imperial family could have them

    • Rangoon House profile image
      Author

      AJ 2 years ago from Australia

      A pleasure Elsie. I love the Faberge eggs too and don't even need to consider them as an investment because it's simply out of the question. Happy Easter.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 2 years ago from New Zealand

      I like looking at photos of Faberge Eggs they are unique and beautiful, but I would never pay that sort of money for them.

      It's nearly easter now so it's a good time for anyone interested in these types of things to remember the Imperial Faberge Egg and the tradition of them and this article covers it nicely.

      Thanks for sharing.