This past Wednesday was the 166th anniversary of the birth of famous Russian jeweler Carl Fabergé, best known for his famous Fabergé eggs, on May 30, 1846.
I was lucky enough to see the amazing eggs, carvings and jewelry in the Forbes Museum when I was young and living in New York City. The collection was sold in the 80’s. It was a small free museum and I spent a lot of time there. This was long before I made jewelry, but the influence stayed with me. (The political context of the work is a very different conversation and one I was aware of then.)
The firm was founded by Carl’s father Gustav in 1842 and migrated to Paris after the Russian revolution. Their work was intimately involved with Russian royalty.
Fabergé … was invited to exhibit at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow. One of the Fabergé pieces displayed at the Pan-Russian Exhibition was a replica of a 4th century BC gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure in the Hermitage Museum. Tsar Alexander III declared that he could not distinguish Fabergé’s work from the original. He ordered that specimens of work by the House of Fabergé should be displayed in the Hermitage Museum as examples of superb contemporary Russian craftsmanship. In 1885, the House of Fabergé was bestowed with the coveted title “Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”, beginning an association with the Russian tsars.
In 1885, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorova . Its “shell” is enamelled on gold to represent a normal hen’s egg. This pulls apart to reveal a gold yolk, which in turn opens to produce a gold chicken that also opens to reveal a replica of the Imperial Crown from which a miniature ruby egg was suspended. The tradition of the Tsar giving his Empress a surprise Easter egg by Carl Fabergé continued. From 1887, it appears that Carl Fabergé was given complete freedom as to the design of the Imperial Easter eggs as they became more elaborate.
Amongst Fabergé’s more popular creations were the miniature hardstone carvings of people, animals and flowers carved from semi-precious or hardstones and embellished with precious metals and stones. The most common animal carvings were elephants and pigs but included custom made miniatures of pets of the British Royal family and other notables. The flower sculptures were complete figural tableaus, which included small vases in which carved flowers were permanently set, the vase and “water” were done in clear rock crystal (quartz) and the flowers in various hardstones and enamel. The figures were typically only 25-75mm long or wide, with some larger and more rare figurines reaching 140mm to 200mm tall.
And finally an iris brooch:
When I was making image choices on Google, it was taking a long time because I love to look at the work.