Faberge - The Most Magnificent Easter Eggs
Each Faberge Imperial Egg Has An Exquisite Easter Surprise
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 Provenance Of The Hen Egg
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
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 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 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 Kremlin Egg 1906 Plays Easter Hymns
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.
The Faberge Rose Trellis Egg 1907
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
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 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 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.
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
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?
© 2008 AJ