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March 15th
2001

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Karlfaberge smallMaster jeweler Peter Karl Fabergé (1846-1920) , the grandson of a French Huguenot who settled in Estonia, was born in St. Petersburg, where his father was a jeweler.

In 1870, after an apprenticeship in Frankfurt, Karl Fabergé takes control over the jewelry workshop of his father in St. Petersburg. With a craftsman's skill and the lucky touch of a dextrous hand he designs jewelry and objects of art combining style elements belonging to many different periods - from Gothic to art nouveau. This symbiosis of styles coupled with the high technical precision of his goldsmith work-masters advances him to the top position among the world's most renowned jewelers.

He won a Gold Medal at the Pan-Russian exhibition in 1882. Alexander III was among those who attended the event and were intrigued by Fabergé 's objects of fantasy. He becomes then Purveyor to the Royal Household of the Russian Czar and this opens the doors for him to a clientele among the higher nobility of Europe.

Fabergé, named goldsmith and jeweler to the Russian Court, in the mid-1880s proposed to Alexander III the creation of an elaborate Easter egg to be presented to the Czarina. Alexander was so taken by this first imperial egg that the special Easter creations became a tradition throughout his reign and that of his son and successor, Nicholas II.

faberge oldTrained as a jeweler, Peter Karl Fabergé was a successful entrepreneur who ran a complex family business, employing as many as 500 designers, gem-cutters, metalworkers, enamelers, and miniature painters. No single piece from the Fabergé workshop is known to have been by his hand. Rather, Fabergé served as the aesthetic leader of the firm, developing initial design concepts and approving important pieces, whose creation was supervised by work-masters such as Mikhail Perkhin.

All the pieces of jewelery and "objects d’art" bear the Fabergé hallmark as well as the mark of the particular work-master who created them. After the Russian revolution in 1918, Fabergé was forced to close his workshop and leave Russia forever. Karl escaped to France. He died in 1920 in Lausanne, Switzerland, at the age of 74. His name remains that of a master who belongs to the greatest jewelers of the late 19th century and his creations are sold as antiques at top prices.

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The Fabergé Style

faberge house moscowThe Fabergé style can only be explained from the process of Karl Fabergé's professional evolution. He was born in St. Petersburg in 1846. In 1860, his father, the goldsmith Gustav Fabergé, emigrated to Germany and settled in Dresden. Having finished his school education, Karl Fabergé went to Frankfurt am Main, where he served his apprenticeship to the jeweller Friedmann. After that he travelled with friends throughout Europe and studied the museums of London, Paris, Florence and Dresden. During this Tour d'Europe, the young Fabergé came into contact with various artistic styles of past periods that he eagerly studied. Later, he eclectically combined these historical styles as well as elements of both cultures of the East and the West in his creations.

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Fabergé Techniques

faberge smallfabergeFabergé secured his place in history of the art of goldsmithery by using old, almost extinct goldsmith techniques in his works and elevating them to the previously unknown level of excellence. He worked with many materials and a large range of precious metal alloys, e.g. yellow, red, white and pale blue. Fabergé was especially famous for his enamel work. His outstanding techniques in these field were strictly guarded as company secrets.

The factors that primarily contributed to the fame of the court jeweler for the two last czars Alexander III and Nicholas II are the Fabergé style; the accomplished high precision goldsmith techniques; his system of work-masters; the royal and therefore aristocratic clientele; the imperial Easter eggs.

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The New Fabergé

faberge smallFor over 70 years there was no work-master who had the professional "know-how" and resourcefulness in the application of various enamel recipes that would have enabled him to work in the spirit of Fabergé. But in 1990, Fabergé, New York, discovered a new work-master.

French enamelling - the Champlevé technique with its translucent enamel on a Moiré Guilloché background, which was especially popular with Fabergé - is employed again by our contemporary Fabergé workmaster, Victor Mayer. Nowadays the quality of Fabergé enamel can be greatly improved by computer regulated colour specific process control. The overall enamel process still bears the mark of traditional handicraft, governed by ancient recipes and company secrets.

Victor Mayer's workshop was commissioned to continue the tradition of Fabergé and to fill the great name with new life. Every piece of jewelry that leaves the workshop is numbered and, according to tradition, bears the old "Fabergé" hallmark and the work-master mark "VM". The number of copies of each object is strictly limited.

A selection from the Fabergé Imperial Egg Collection makes a great gift for Easter or anytime. Porcelain egg halves are hand painted with 24 ct. gold. Crystal tops are mouth blown and hand cut using the ancient copper wheel technique or diamond abrasives to achieve the refractive brilliance that only true crystal can provide. The eggs open to reveal a gold plated sterling silver surprise on a solid 24 ct., gold disk. Feet and hinge supports are bronze.

Meticulous construction, attention to detail and the famous Fabergé's style make each these Imperial Eggs a real masterpiece.

The company Victor Mayer has, as Fabergé had in his time, at its disposal enamel in 144 different colours, which, when applied layer upon layer, can produce innumerable hues of enamel. Besides this, the Fabergé workmaster Victor Mayer can avail himself of more than 40 goldsmith professions, mostly extinct goldsmith trades, that are no longer taught, such as Ziseleuer, Guillocheur, Emailleur and Pailletteur.

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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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