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About Fabergé Eggs

First it is necessary to say that any and all of the "Fabergé Eggs" you see in this catalog are not actually Fabergé Imperial Eggs. They are, in the case of the Artoria "Fabergé Eggs", authorized Limoges porcelain versions of the original Fabergé Eggs, but all others are Limoges Egg Boxes that were inspired by the original Fabergé Eggs and are not purporting to be copies of the actual eggs. Having said that, for purposes of this article, the eggs I speak of here will all be the authentic Fabergé Imperial Eggs.

Fabergé: Who

Peter Carl Fabergé was born in St Petersburg, Russia in 1846. His father had established a jewelry firm four years earlier and it was enjoying considerable success. Peter Carl was educated both in Russia and Germany and then served an apprenticeship to a Frankfurt, Germany jeweler. At the age of twenty four he returned to Russia and took over the family jewelry firm. His talent, obviously, was very impressive.

In 1882 The House of Fabergé won a gold medal at The Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow. The new Czar, Alexander III and his Czarina, Marie Feodorovna were so taken with the work of Fabergé that they awarded The House of Fabergé a warrant as "Jeweler of His Majesty and the Imperial Hermitage".

By 1885 The House of Fabergé had gained international renown by winning the Gold Medal at The Nuremburg Fine Art Exhibition. That same year The House of Fabergé created the very first Imperial Egg as an Easter gift to his wife from the Czar. That Egg began the tradition of Fabergé Eggs for the Russian royal family and in short order the fame of Fabergé spread throughout Europe and the Scandinavian countries as well, culminating in a Royal Warrant from the Courts of Sweden and Norway and The Legion d'Honneur from the French government. Those awards brought to The House of Fabergé as customers the remaining courts of Europe, the Far East, Siam, Great Britain and the uncrowned royalty of America.

Fabergé: What

The House of Fabergé manufactured exquisite jewelry of every sort, religious objects, small useful objects such as picture frames, seals, cigarette cases, belt buckles, cigarette holders, gum pots, letter openers, as well as objéts d'art, tea sets, figurines, silver flatware and of course, "The Eggs". They worked in many different mediums including rock crystal, nephrite, jade, chalcedony, jasper, agate, obsidian, lapis lazuli, silver, many colors of gold and platinum, as well as the highest quality diamonds, pearls, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

Fabergé revived the technique of using translucent colored enamel on a guilloché background using 124 different tints and shades of color on a variety of engraved forms and patterns to achieve a dazzling new effect. All of the work was done by hand by a small army of highly trained craftsmen, each specializing in his own field, i.e. painter, caster, chaser, designer, enameler, stonecutter and the person who mechanized the eggs. Of these artists and craftsmen there were several who gained renown in their own right: Michael Perchin who created many of the exquisite pieces for the Czar and Henric Wigstrom who first was assistant to Perchin and then succeeded Perchin when Perchin died at the age of 43 in 1903.

The Eggs

It is not known how many Eggs were made by Fabergé; it is thought that there were 56 made, not all made for the Czars. Today there are 45 which are known to be actual Fabergé Eggs. There are several others which appear to be Fabergé pieces but the provenance of these is uncertain. Of the 45, the two largest groups are owned by England's Queen Elizabeth and by the family of the late Malcolm Forbes. Both of these collections are on public display. The Queen's Collection can be seen at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London and The Forbes Collection at the FORBES Magazine Galleries in New York City.

It is not possible here to enumerate or describe all of the eggs, suffice to say that every egg contained a "surprise" and the eggs often displayed such ingenuity that the it would be difficult if not impossible for a craftsman of today to replicate them. In fact, their astronomical rise in price when one does come available, attests to the fact that they cannot be reproduced successfully today.

The "Azova Egg" contained an exact model of the ship Pamiat Azova done in gold and platinum with diamond windows on an agate sea. The intricacy of the work on this piece is beyond imagination. The Rosebud Egg contained a tiny yellow rosebud whose petals opened individually to reveal a miniature of the Imperial Crown and a ruby egg pendant hanging within it. The Coronation Egg held a tiny gold and diamond replica of the coach used at the coronation of the Czar and Czarina. The Lilies of the Valley Egg had three diamond encrusted portraits of members of the Czar's family, painted on porcelain, that rose out of the egg when one of the pearls was turned.The Trans-Siberian Railway Egg contained a working model, 6 cars including the locomotive, of a railroad train in platinum and gold set with diamonds and rubies, which could be wound with a small key and would then run.

The list goes on and can be seen in its entirety, along with color plates of the eggs, in the catalog "Fabergé, The Imperial Eggs" from the San Diego Museum of Art.

Sources for the information given above are the catalog. "Fabergé, The Imperial Eggs" and the book Fabergé and The Russian Master Goldsmiths.

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