Like the history of Russia, the story of Fabergé is one of melancholy, struggle, strength, loss and beauty. In particular, the Fabergé name is inextricably linked to the grand yet ultimately tragic lives of the last Tsars and the Russian Revolution that swerved the course of European history.
The talents of the Huguenot Peter Carl Fabergé led him to become the jeweler and goldsmith to the last Imperial Russian Court from 1885-1917. Combining the Eastern Catholic Easter tradition of elaborately decorating eggs, which symbolizes rebirth and the resurrection of Christ, with the craftsmanship of a fine jeweler, Fabergé created a delightful Easter surprise for the Empress Maria Fedorovna at the bequest of her husband, Tsar Alexander III: the Hen Egg. This exquisite piece in opaque white contains four delightful surprises: when opened, it reveals a matte gold yolk, which then opens into a multi-coloured gold hen, which itself contains a tiny diamond replica of the Imperial Crown, from which a minute ruby pendant was suspended.
Pleased with the enchantment the gift caused his wife, Alexander again commissioned Fabergé to craft another Easter egg the following year, and he didn't disappoint. The goldsmith had complete creative control over the design of the gifts, and the Tsar himself wouldn't even know what lay in the box until his wife had excitedly pulled off the wrapping. Each year, the eggs became more complex and magical: musical boxes, cuckoo clocks, photographs, and of course, astonishingly cut gems were added as surprises in the centre of each.
After the death of Alexander in 1894, his son presented Fabergé eggs to his wife and mother every Easter, with the exception of the years 1904-5 due to the Russo-Japanese war. However, word of the eggs spread, and soon the Rothschilds, the Duchess of Marlborough and the Nobels were commissioning their own to be made.
The lavish tradition of the eggs was soon to come to an abrupt end, however. In 1917, the Bolsheviks not only brought a violent end to the Romanov Dynasty, but to the House of Fabergé as well. They seized the workshops and all they contained. Peter Carl Fabergé, his family and his craftsmen all fled for their lives.
History has shown that popular revolutions cannot remove power; they merely shift it from the hands of one group into the hands of another. Attempts to eliminate "bourgeoisie" aesthetics from a society are equally short lived, as the history of Fabergé proves. The family dispersed and lost their rights to produce and market designs under their name in 1951, but the legend of the name never died, nor did its awe-inspiring designs and craftsmanship, and finally, in 2007, the Fabergé name was reunited with its original owners: the Fabergé family.
Fabergé was re-launched on 9 September 2009, with three Les Fabuleuses de Fabergé High Jewelry Collections - Les Fleurs, Les Fables and Les Fauves de Fabergé. Paying homage to Peter Carl Fabergé's genius as a visionary artist-jeweler, and benefiting from the expertise and guidance of Tatiana and Sarah Fabergé, his great-grand-daughters, Les Fabuleuses marked the birth of contemporary Fabergé collections. Most recently, during SS 2012 Fashion Week in Paris, the Ritz hosted a pop up boutique showcasing the latest line of Fabergé jewels: the Les Fameux de Fabergé collection, which featured stunning rings, bracelets and earrings all fit for a Tsarina.
The highlight of the show was undoubtedly the bijou egg pendants inspired by the designs of the legendary Imperial Eggs themselves. There were twelve; one for every month of the year, with each illustrating a traditional Russian proverb. These creations, first launched in Paris during Couture Week in 2011, involve a long, precise and sometimes pioneering fabrication process, pushing the boundaries of both craftsmanship and design.
The fortune of the Fabergé family has ebbed and flowed; many of their most lavish pieces have been lost or stolen through the tides of time; it seems fitting, then, that the symbol that still most embodies the great jeweler is that of the life giving, eternal egg.
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