We may not be all familiar with Faberge eggs but to some, it represents a lot of things. In its own essence, it is a priceless masterpiece. For collectors, they are precious works of art but for Stalin, it is a reminder of imperial overkill. But more importantly, for the Russian royalty, it is a century-old tradition (Kubilius). It all began in 1885 when Czar Alexander III and Czarina Maria Fedorovna celebrated their twentieth anniversary. Coincidentally, it fall on the same date as the Easter, and as we all know, it is the most illustrious holiday in the Russian Orthodox faith (Schulman).
Because of such, the czar wanted to give his queen a very special gift that is both a commemoration of their anniversary and the Easter. He then commissioned a very promising jeweler at that time. His name is Peter Carl Faberge (“Faberge Eggs: Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty”) . Since the beginning, it became a challenge for Faberge to design a creative, unique and intricate egg every year for that was what the Czar wants. Fortunately for Faberge, he never runs out of ideas. Most of his inspirations are drawn from the royal couple themselves.
When the Czar died in 1894, Nicholas II undertook the throne and continued doing the tradition. Not only does he commissioned the jeweler for the Czarina but also for his wife-Czarina Alexandra Fedorovna (Kubilius). Faberge made sure that no two designs are the same. Faberge made an exclusive line for the royalty-it was called the Imperial egg collection. Each year, the theme is something that the royal court awaits for it is kept as a secret until the morning of the Easter arrives (Moon). In 1900, it made its debut through the World Exhibition.
Many jewelers, critics and royals were astounded by the master’s intricate design. Because of such, countless royalties, aristocrats or just plain rich people commissioned the jeweler to make the same kind of jewelry for them. Faberge’s name soared into new heights during that year. With so much orders that are coming from around the world, he decided to establish the House of Faberge (“What Are Faberge Eggs? “). In 1917, the Czar already ended his reign and in the following year, his entire family was executed in a basement in their Siberian castle-prison.
However, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna managed to escape the assassin’s bullet. It is believed that when she left her homeland, she carried with her the last piece of the Faberge Imperial Easter egg series (“Faberge Eggs: Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty”). It is believed that each Faberge egg represents a different affair in Russia’s history. One of the many examples of these is the Tsarevich egg which was created in 1912 that was created to honor the male heir to the royal throne.
It specifically opened to expose a portrait of the Russian prince (Kubilius). Moreover, in 1911, he created the Fifteenth Anniversary egg which is basically a family album of the royal family. Its paintings are elegantly detailed to note the most remarkable events of the reign of Czar Nicholas II and each member of the family (“Faberge Eggs: Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty”). What made Faberge’s eggs so popular amongst the aristocrats and the royalties is in the way by which he manufactures each egg.
Beside the fact that each egg is unique, he makes sure that he employs only the best techniques to create the finest ornament. The major source of his inspiration comes from the works of earlier centuries. This is very much evident in the way that he incorporated translucent enameling in all of his eggs. But since only a small amount and number of colors were available for translucent enameling during the 19th century, Faberge experimented with different colors and soon, he was able to come up with over 140 shades. Faberge was also very particular about the materials that he used.
His favorite materials are silver, copper, gold, nickel and palladium that he coalesce at different proportions to achieve enigmatic colors. Another method that Faberge also used was the inclusion of guilloche-a surface treatment that can easily make waves and striations in the design either mechanically or manually. He also loved natural stones that included bowenite, rock crystal, agate, lapis lazuli, jade, etc.
Precious stones that he usually includes are sapphires, emeralds and rubies whereas for semi-precious ones, he uses garnets, olivines, Mecca stones, etc. Schulman) Amusingly, it was Peter Faberge who was the man behind the designs and deliverer of the eggs to the royal palace. However, he did not really participate in the genuine process of making the eggs. Credits should have been given to all the goldsmiths, master jewelers and miniaturists who, year by year, never fails to execute Faberge’s designs into a masterpiece and a work of art (Evans). The House of Faberge became one of the most successful and largest companies in Russia in late 1800’s with over 500 employees and three branches all over Russia and Europe.
During World War I, specifically in 1914, the company began to loose its color because majority of its employees were drafted into military and in 1918, the Bolsheviks nationalized the company. Six years later, Faberge’s sons-Eugene and Alexander-established FABERGE and Cie in an effort to revive the reputation and standards of the company. Nevertheless, they failed because Faberge’s death four years earlier proved to be a very great void for the company (Crews). Then, in 1951, the company became FABERGE Inc. nd in 1989, Pforzheim jeweler Victor Mayer was appointed as the exclusive worldwide workmaster for the company and since then, he had been permitted to sell the exquisite jewels and objets d’art of the company (Crews). Of all the beautiful and exquisite jewelries and object d’art that Faberge and his company created, it was Imperial Easter egg series that gathered so much attention. Out of the 57 eggs that he created, only 50 pieces were made for the royal family of Russia. As of today, eight Imperial eggs are reportedly missing and four are said to be already photographed (Moon).
There is still much jewelry from the House of Faberge that missing until today; some can be found in museums and others, in collections of private individuals. The Faberge Egg is indeed one of the well-appreciated contributions of Russia to the world. It extends from a family tradition by none other than the royal family themselves. It is undeniably one of the most coveted work of art and history in the world. And no matter how expensive it may become, it is still priceless not just for the Russians but for other people who knows the real value and history of the eggs.
It is a masterpiece carefully crafted to satisfy the musings of the Czarina that is why, it reaches mind-blowing amounts. Additionally, not only is the fact that it is a masterpiece that makes it so expensive but more importantly, it boosts itself with character-character that over time developed in itself. Some eggs may be missing but Faberge, the Czars and the makers have in their heart the true story behind every unique piece of a Faberge egg. It is a piece of history that belongs to a nation and a family that is one of the most controversial and sought-after royalties in the world.
Indeed, just to have that piece of history is priceless. In the eyes of someone that is truly an appreciator; the elaborate design now only becomes a bonus. There may be lots of replications of the Faberge eggs but to have an authentic Faberge egg only implies that Russia (and the royal family) is permitting the owner to have a glimpse of their private life. And for them to allow this is truly an honor no money or jewel in the world can ever replace. They have a piece of puzzle that only the eggs can tell.
Courtney from Study Moose
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