Last update:
March 15th
2001

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Fabergé's Family

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It all started with a French Protestant family of jewelers fleeing France when the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685, ending the protection of Huguenots (French Protestants) in France. The Fabergés fled to more welcoming lands in Europe, with some members finally settling in Russia. Peter Karl Fabergé, born in 1846, took over his father´s jewelry atelier at the ripe age of 24, exercising the skills he had acquired during an apprenticeship in Germany. He was also given the task of cataloging and appraising a large part of Czarist treasures from the Hermitage, a Russian treasury. Inspired by these ancient pieces, he and his brother started repoducing them in their workshop and selling them to the aristocracy.

It was Czar Alexander III who first honored Karl Fabergé by presenting him with a gold medal for "...having opened a new era in jewelry art." Fabergé was bringing orfeverie to new heights. Soon after, Fabergé became the official supplier to the Russian Court.

Now an established goldsmith,Fabergé had the freedom to work with the most precious of materials including silver, gold, palladium, copper, precious and semi-precious stones, as well as enamel, and was also able to hire the greatest talents. Pushed to create pieces that would awe the court, Fabergé finally reached the most desired effect when his workshop created the first jewelled egg for Alexander III. The occasion was Easter, the most important celebration in the Russian Orthodox religion. The tradition requires the exchange of eggs and three kisses. The Czar had requested this beautiful, ornate Easter egg for his wife, Czarina Maria. It was the beginning of a tradtion which lasted beyond Fabergé´s life. A little-known fact is that none of the eggs created by the Fabergé workshop were actually the work of Karl Fabergé himself. Michael Evlampievich Perchin and Henrik Wigström, two brilliant goldsmiths working for Fabergé, are the ones who are mostresponsible for those Easter eggs. Nonetheless, the prestige fell back on the house of Fabergé.

The techniques used to create the eggs are varied and range from simple to complex. Some of the simpler methods used by Fabergé were tinting the works by using stones and enamel, or combining a few metals to reach the desired hue. More complicated was a surface treatment called guilloche, which created a wavelike pattern, and could be done by hand or machine. The most precious of stones, including rubies, saphires, emeralds, were round-cut (cabochon) and used only as ornaments and added in the end. All in all, fifty-six Imperial eggs are known to have been created, and only fourty-four have been recovered so far. Twelve other eggs were commissioned by Alexander Kelch, a goldmine owner but the most coveted eggs are from the Imperial collection. The fact that they have not all been recovered also explains the multitude of fake Fabergé eggs you can now find on the market, sometimes in the most select of Antique dealerships. The value of the Imperial eggs only augments with time and those little treasures are considered museum-pieces, so if one of these days you find one while Easter egg-hunting...

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The court jeweler of the Czars introduced a production system of workmasters which proved to be very efficient. Although Karl Fabergé was a skilled goldsmith, he seldom did goldsmithery personally. The absolutely new conception of labour organisation enabled him to use the existing creative potential in an optimal way. That means that Karl Fabergé entrusted independent highly capable workmasters with the execution of manual work. The most of them were foreigners whom he invited to St. Petersburg where he usually provided them with rent-free workspace in the immediate vicinity of his atelier.

Fabergé supplied his workmasters with orders, raw materials and ensured that the end products were purchased and paid for. The master himself devoted his attention not only to artistic tasks, but also to the business side such as marketing, sales and financing. His striving for artistic perfection and his feeling for elegant design were combined with profound technical knowledge and business ability. His ability to unite craftsmen from a variety of countries in one team and to lead them with motivation, rounds up theimage of Fabergé as a brilliant entrepreneur. This sophisticated type of labour division and management was unprecedented at this time with regard to technical, commercial and artistic efficiency.

The patrons of Fabergé were members of the highest European aristocratic circles . His "objets d'art et fantasie" were distinguished by wealth of ideas, artistic refinement and highest technical precision. Fabergé personally controlled the entire production of his workmasters and it was only authorised with his "Fabergé" stamp if the design met his high demands artistically and technically. In order to protect his name, Fabergé destroyed all objects that in some way fell short of his quality standards.

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If you have suggestions for additional entries on this book, please email us, and if possible, please include information about the Egg and good pictures. Thank you.

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