Faberge eggs were made from 1885 through 1917 by the St. Petersburg jewelry outfit, House of Faberge. Most of the Faberge eggs were miniatures that became popular Easter gifts and worn in groups or singularly around the neck. The House of Faberge were most famous for designing exquisite, jewel-wrapped Faberge eggs for several Russian Tsars including Alexander III as a gift to his wife for their 20th wedding anniversary. Each of the Faberge eggs created had a surprise inside, whether a golden egg yolk or intricately carved and jeweled objects such a miniature ships, teapots, babies in bassinets, and much more. Today it is believed that less than sixty of these original creations exist.
The Imperial Eggs were of great importance and given on Russian Orthodox Easter, a religious holiday as significant as the west’s Christmas. Beginning in St Petersburg society, it was customary to take colored eggs to church, have them blessed, and then gift them to friends and family for Easter. The elite gifted jeweled eggs; Russian Tsar Alexander III consulted with Faberge on this premise, which led to the very first Imperial Easter Egg for his wife Empress Maria Fedorova, named the Hen Egg. It had an enamel shell that was opaque and opened to show a golden yolk. The yolk also opened, revealing a golden hen that opened as well. Inside the hen was a tiny replica of the Imperial Crown made of diamonds from which hung an even tinier ruby pendant. Artistic freedom was given to Peter Carl Faberge, head of the House of Faberge, in designing more Imperial Easter Eggs; from then on they became extremely elaborate. The surprise inside was the only requirement. Designs were made strictly by Faberge himself and produced by a team of three or four craftsmen. He also created several large eggs for private, elite clients including the Rothchilds, the Dutchess of Marlborough, and the Nobels.
The Imperial Faberge Eggs
The Imperial Faberge Eggs Image: madoa (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0
Faberge created a series of elaborate and magnificent jeweled eggs, using a team of craftsmen for each, for the Russian Imperial family between 1885 through 1916. The Imperial Easter Eggs are the most awe-inspiring and celebrated of any piece from the design firm. The intricate details of finely created eggs and the surprise inside each revealed saw them compared to the Russian Matryoshka dolls nesting one inside the other from smallest to largest. Each egg took more than a year to finish. Design ideas were plucked from everyday life among the Tsars; events happening within the Russian Court, family relationships, and more. Each year, the Easter eggs’ theme changed but the element of interior surprise linked them all. The Imperial Eggs had the most delicate and impressive surprises, some taking 15 months and more to finalize with men working 15-hour days.
Locations of Faberge Eggs
With less than sixty Faberge Eggs left in the world, most reside protected in one of the great museums. There are ten Faberge Eggs inside the Kremlin Armoury, part of a collection of regalia from the Russian Imperial family. This is the largest collection of Imperial Faberge eggs in the world and the largest collection by one owner. The Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection of Fabergé and Russian Decorative Arts includes a collection of five Faberge Eggs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Lillian collected the pieces between 1933 and 1946 and gave the entire collection to the museum in 1947. The eggs include: the 1896 Imperial Rock-Crystal Easter Egg with Revolving Miniatures, the 1903 Imperial Peter the Great Easter Egg, and the 1915 Imperial Red Cross Easter Egg. The Royal Collection Trust London includes drawings, watercolors, jewelry, armor, textiles, books, and more owned by royals spanning more than five centuries. Within this collection are three Faberge Eggs once owned by King George V and Queen Mary: the Mosaic Egg, the Easter Basket, and the Colonnade Egg Clock. Viktor Felixovich Vekselberg, president and owner of a major Russian business conglomerate, played a part in repatriating many of the Imperial Faberge eggs to Russia. In 2004, he bought nine eggs from NYC’s Forbes publishing house. IN 2007 they were sent to Dubrovnik and the Kremlin to be exhibited. Vekselberg owns the largest collection of Faberge eggs in world; his collection includes two Kelch, 11 Imperial, and two others.
Top image: alexei maximov (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0