Monday, August 5, 2013

The Faberge Imperial Eggs

Tsar Nicholas II presented this egg to his wife.
      A Fabergé egg (Russian: Яйца Фаберже́; yaytsa faberzhe) is a jeweled egg made by the House of Fabergé from 1885 to 1917. Most were miniature eggs that were popular gifts at Easter. They were worn on a neck chain either singly or in groups.
      The most famous eggs produced by the House were the larger ones made for Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia; these are often referred to as the 'Imperial' Fabergé eggs. Approximately 50 eggs were made; 42 have survived. Another two eggs, the Constellation and Karelian Birch eggs, were planned for 1918 but not delivered, as Nicholas II and his family were executed that year, and Nicholas had abdicated the crown the year before.
      Seven large eggs were made for the Kelch family of Moscow. The eggs are made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with combinations of enamel and gem stones. The Fabergé egg has become a symbol of luxury, and the eggs are regarded as masterpieces of the jeweler's art.
      'Fabergé egg' typically refers to products made by the company before the 1917 Revolution, but use of the Fabergé name has occasionally been disputed, and the trademark has been sold several times since the Fabergé family left Russia after 1917 (see House of Fabergé), so several companies have subsequently retailed egg-related merchandise using the Fabergé name. The trademark is currently owned by Fabergé Limited, which also makes egg-themed jewellery.

Above Right, On April 22, 1907, Tsar Nicholas II presented this egg to his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna, to commemorate the birth of the tsarevich, Alexei Nicholaievich, three years earlier. Because of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, no Imperial Easter eggs had been produced for two years. The egg contained as a surprise a diamond necklace and an ivory miniature portrait of the tsarevich framed in diamonds (now lost). Fabergé's invoice, dated April 21, 1907, listed the egg at 8,300 rubles.

Faberge Eggs, Part 1, Watch Part II here.

      The first Fabergé egg was crafted for Tsar Alexander III, who decided to give his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, an Easter Egg in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal. It is believed that the Tsar’s inspiration for the piece was an egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark, which had captivated Maria’s imagination in her childhood. Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold. Its opaque white enameled ‘shell’ opens to reveal its first surprise, a matte yellow gold yolk. This in turn opens to reveal a multi-coloured gold hen that also opens. It contained a minute diamond replica of the Imperial Crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended. Unfortunately, these last two surprises have been lost.
      Empress Maria was so delighted by this gift that Alexander appointed Fabergé a ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’. He commissioned another egg the following year. After that, Peter Carl Fabergé, who headed the House, was apparently given complete freedom for future Imperial Easter Eggs, as from this date their designs become more elaborate. According to the Fabergé family tradition, not even the Tsar knew what form they would take: the only requirement was that each one should contain a surprise. Following the death of Alexander III on November 1, 1894, his son presented a Fabergé egg to both his wife, the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, and to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna.
      No eggs were made for 1904 and 1905 because of the Russo-Japanese War. Once an initial design had been approved by Peter Carl Fabergé, the work was carried out by an entire team of craftsmen, among them Michael Perkhin, Henrik Wigström and Erik August Kollin.
      The Imperial eggs enjoyed great fame, and Fabergé made some other large eggs for a few select private clients, such as the Duchess of Marlborough, the Nobels, the Rothschilds and the Yusupovs. A series of seven eggs was made for the industrialist Alexander Kelch.

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