History of Faberge Eggs and Jewelry

The House of Fabergé is a jewelry firm founded towards the end of the first half of the 19th century in Imperial Russia famed for designing elaborate jewel encrusted Fabergé Eggs for the Russian Tsars.

In the 1830s, when young Gustav Faberge moved to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, to train as a goldsmith under Andreas Ferdinand Spiegel, who specialized in making golden boxes. Later he continued his training with the celebrated firm of Keibel, goldsmiths and jewelers to the Tsars. In 1841, his apprenticeship over, Gustav Faberge earned the title of Master Goldsmith.

Twelve years later Gustav Faberge opened his own retail jewelry shop under the name Fabergé. The addition of the accent may have been an attempt to give the name a more explicitly French character, appealing to the Russian nobility. French was the language of the Russian Court and the urban nobility, and closely associated with luxury goods.

In 1842 Fabergé opened for business in a basement shop in the capital’s fashionable Bolshaia Morskaia. Later in that year Gustav married Charlotte Jungstedt, the daughter of Carl Jungstedt, an artist of Danish origin. In 1846 the coupled had a son, Peter Carl Fabergé, popularly known as Carl Fabergé.

Carl Fabergé was educated at the Gymnasium of St Anne’s. This was a fashionable establishment for the sons of the affluent middle classes and the lower echelons of the nobility, providing an indication of the success of his father's business. Gustav Fabergé retired to Dresden in 1860 leaving the firm in the hands of managers outside of the Fabergé family while his son continued his education. The young Carl undertook a business course at the Dresden Handelsschule. At the age of 18 he embarked on a Grand Tour. Carl received tuition from respected goldsmiths in Germany, France and England, attended a course at Schloss’s Commercial College in Paris and viewed the objects in the galleries of Europe’s leading museums.

Carl returned to St Petersburg in 1872 at the age 26. For the following 10 years, his father’s Workmaster Hiskias Pendin acted as his mentor and tutor. In 1881, the company moved to larger street-level premises at 16/18 Bolshaia Morskaia. Following Pendin’s death in 1882, Carl took over the running of the firm. Three other significant events happened that year. He was awarded the title of Master Goldsmith. Agathon Fabergé, his younger brother by 16 years, joined the business. While Agathon’s education was restricted to Dresden, he was noted as a talented designer that provided the business with fresh impetus, until his death 13 years later.

Following Carl’s involvement with repairing and restoring objects in the Hermitage Museum, the firm 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.

The House of Fabergé also stocked a full range of jewelery and other ornamental objects. There were enameled gold and silver gilt, as well as wooden photograph frames; carved hard stone figures of people, birds and animals; vases of flowers crafted in hard stones and precious metals, some perhaps enhanced by precious stones; gold and silver boxes; desk sets and timepieces. Quality was assured by every article made being approved by Carl Fabergé, or in his absence by his eldest son Eugène, before it was placed into stock. The minutest of faults would result in rejection.

The House of Fabergé won international awards and became Russia’s largest jewelery firm employing some 500 craftsmen and designers. In the early 20th century the HQ of the House of Fabergé moved to a purpose-built four storey building in Bolshaia Morskaia. Branches were also opened in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London. From England, the company made annual visits to the Far East.

The House of Fabergé was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In early October, Carl Fabergé left St Petersburg on the last diplomatic train for Riga. The revolution in Latvia started in the middle of the following month and Carl was again fleeing for his life to Germany, first to Bad Homburg and then to Wiesbaden. The Bolsheviks imprisoned his sons Agathon and Alexander. Initially Agathon was released to value the valuables seized from the Imperial family, the aristocrats, wealthy merchants and Fabergé amongst other jewelers. But he soon was re-imprisoned when the Bolsheviks found it difficult to sell this treasure at Agathon’s valuations. With Europe awash with Russian jewels, prices had fallen. Madame Fabergé and her eldest son Eugène avoided capture by escaping under the cover of darkness through the snow-covered woods by sleigh and on foot. Towards the end of December 1918 they had crossed the border into the safety of Finland.

Meanwhile Carl Fabergé was in Germany and became seriously ill. Eugène reached Wiesbaden in June 1920 and accompanied his father to Switzerland where other members of the family had taken refuge. Carl Fabergé died in Lausanne on September 24th 1920. His wife died in January 1925. Although Alexander managed to escape from prison when a friend bribed guards, Agathon did not succeed in making his escape from the USSR until 1927. Of the 69 known Fabergé eggs, only 61 have survived to the present day. The vast majority of them are stored in public museums, with the greatest number, 30, in Russia. There are 54 known Imperial eggs. Only 46 have survived.

Joseph Stalin had many of the eggs sold in 1927, after their value had been appraised by Agathon Fabergé. Between 1930 and 1933 fourteen Imperial eggs left Russia. Many of the eggs were sold to Armand Hammer, president of Occidental Petroleum and a personal friend of Lenin, whose father was founder of the United States Communist party, and Emanuel Snowman of the London antique dealers Wartski.

On November 27th, 2007 The Rothschild Fabergé Egg was auctioned at Christie's (London) in € 9,000,000. The Rothschild Fabergé Egg became the highest price ever paid for a Russian jewerly item, as well as the most expensive jewerly clock in the world to date.

GreatRussianGifts.com has a beautiful collection of Faberge Style egg shaped jewelry and jewelry boxes. Most of our high quality pieces are made of pewter, overlaid with enamel and trimmed with 24K Gold. Each piece is also decorated throughout with sparkling Swarovski crystals.

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