Born in St. Petersburg to Gustav Faberge, Peter Carl Faberge was only 24 when he took over his father’s jewelry firm in 1870 to become the most famous creator of the stunning gold jeweled & enameled treasures of Imperial Russia. Known for the ornate Easter eggs that were commissioned from him annually by the Czars Alexander III & Nicholas II, he & his work-masters created many exquisite objects d’art & jewelry. Faberge’s philosophy “the value of the object must be judged by its design & craftsmanship and not by the intrinsic worth of its ingredients” allowed him to create elaborate artistic pieces that were ahead of its time. Some of the items in addition to his fabulous eggs were enameled cigarette cases, snuff boxes, presentation boxes, table clocks, frames, miniature carvings of people, animals & flowers, opera glasses, cane handles, fans, belt buckles, cuff links and silver-wares.
As symbols of creation; eggs have been exchanged at Easter for hundreds of years. The Easter eggs which Faberge produced for the Czars were highly imaginative and ranged from the simple first Imperial egg to the complex creations of later years such as the Orange Tree Egg of 1911. The first Imperial egg was the Hen Egg ordered by Empress Marie in 1886. About the size of a real egg, the white matte enamel egg opens to reveal a golden removable yolk that opens to show a tiny hen. The hen made of four shades of gold with ruby eyes and rests on a nest of yellow gold straw. When opened, the hen reveals a surprise, a replica of the imperial crown from which dangled another miniature ruby egg. Over the years eggs became more elaborate as Faberge’s imagination soared.
Subsequent eggs produced: 1887, Resurrection Egg, 1888 Danish Jubilee, 1889 Egg with blue enamel ribbing, 1890 Spring Flowers, 1891 Azova Egg, 1892 Silver Anniversary, 1893 Caucasus, 1894 Renaissance, 1895 Rosebud, 1895 Danish Palace, 1896 Egg with revolving miniatures, 1896 Blue Serpent Clock egg, 1897 Coronation Egg, 1897 Pelican Egg, 1898 Lilies of the Valley Egg, 1899 Madonna-Lily Egg, 1899 Pansy Egg, 1900 Cuckoo Egg, 1900 Pine Cone Egg, 1901 Trans Siberian Railway Egg, 1901 Apple Blossom Egg, 1902 Clover Egg, 1902 Gatchina Palace Egg, 1903 Peter the Great Egg, 1903 Chanticleer Egg, 1904 Uspensky Cathedral Egg, 1904 Alexander 111 Commemorative Egg, 1905 Colonnade Egg, 1906 Swan Egg, 1907 Rose Trellis Egg, 1908 Alexander Palace Egg, 1908 Peacock Egg,1909 Standart Egg, 1910 Egg with Love Trophies, 1910 Alexander 111 Equestrian Egg, 1911 Fifteenth Anniversay Egg, 1911 Orange Tree Egg, 1912, Czarevitch Egg, 1912 Napoleonic Egg, 1913 Romanov Tercentenary Egg, 1913 Winter Egg, 1914 Mosaic Egg, 1914 Grisaille Egg, 1915 Red Cross Egg with Resurrection Triptych, 1915 Red Cross Egg with Portraits, 1916 Steel Military Egg, 1916 Cross of St. George Egg.
Besides the Russian Imperial Family and the aristocracy, among his most admiring clients were King Edward VII of England and King Rama of Siam. Some of the pre-revolution foreign visitors to St. Petersburg who were customers of Faberge included J.P. Morgan, Jr., Henry Walters and Marjorie Merriweather Post.
Faberge himself did not spend his days at the work bench, in fact at one time he employed over 700 -. He was well versed as a bench jeweler as he had apprenticed to the goldsmith Freidman in Frankfurt as a young man and also studied in Dresden. Most of the objects d’art & jewelry were a collaborative effort of some of the finest goldsmiths and enamelers of the time. Carl Faberge studied the work of Renaissance French goldsmiths who produced snuff boxes and objects d’art for Louis XVI. He was inspired by the design of eighteenth century France from rococo to anticipating the trends of the 1920’s Art Deco movement. He was interested in Japanese art as he acquired a large collection. Some of his later works incorporate an abstract quality that was a decade ahead of its time.
When the revolution came in 1918 Faberge’s business ended as he fled and the Bolsheviks seized the workshop to sell the silver & gold. Carl Faberge left for Wiesbaden, Germany then moved to Lausanne, Switzerland where he died in 1920. He had four sons, Eugene, Agathon, Alexander and Nicholas. Following their father’s death, Eugene and Alexander opened a shop in Paris where they ran a business under the name Faberge et Cie.
Today the tradition continues as Faberge Co. entrusted the workshop of Victor Mayer in Pforzheim to continue the tradition of enameled eggs & jewelry. Victor Mayer, established in 1842, worked with Faberge himself and now the third generation Victor Mayer is still creating collectible jewelry & objects d’art that are exclusive, each piece individually signed and numbered. In 1997 the contemporary Faberge Collection of jewelled eggs was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and traveled nationwide. Selected objects d’ art are also in the museum in Zurich, Switzerland.
The production of Faberge jewelry & objects d’art is highly labor intensive. The technique of enameling is an extremely delicate one involving firing the enamel, a compound of glass & metal oxides which are applied by hand eight separate times, at very high temperatures well over 1000 degrees F. An enameled object that has a combination of different colors are fired more than once, (different temperatures for different colors). Enamel is an inorganic material which sets to form a translucent glass substance. It melts at temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius & above where it forms a solid connection to the gold. Organic materials such as varnish or epoxy resin cannot be associated with the term “enamelling”. There is no such technique as “cold enamelling” for proper enameling work. The production of genuine enamel is an extremely risky process. The distinction of the Faberge enameling compared to other enameled jewelry is the glowing translucent beauty. The application of the enamel is applied to engraved 18K gold, a technique of engraving known as tour a guilloche, then enameling over this design in translucent colors. A variety of guilloche patterns are engraved, the most popular being the sunburst & moire designs. Inlaid pure gold leaf paillons are applied to the top of the enameled piece, only – Victor Mayer has this particular skill to produce this old world technique. With each piece created one at a time, exclusive & limited in number per year they are a collectible treasure. As is the 19th century, Faberge is often copied; only objects which bears the stamp of Faberge & logo of the work master Victor Mayer, are genuine contemporary pieces and can be sold as such.
One of the most intriguing egg is the Orange Tree created in 1911. The leaves are made of dark green jade foliage interspersed with white enameled flowers with diamond centers; the buds are rose diamonds; the fruits are citrines, amethysts, rubies & champagne diamonds. When the surprise button is pressed, the leaves open and a bird rises from the leaves, sings as it moves its head from side to side & flaps its wings & opens its beak then automatically disappears. The tree is in a container of white agate overlaid by a gold trellis-work enriched with enamelled green swags set with cabochon rubies and pearls. The whole stands on a base of jade with posts at the corners applied with spiral bands of gold foliage connected by free swinging swags of enamelled green husks and pearls.
Deleuse Jewelers is proud to be one of forty stores in North America, exclusive in Marin, to offer Faberge jewelry. We travel to Basel, Switzerland and hand choose the newly produced Faberge jewelry each year. Some of the colors and styles produced today are designs from the Faberge archives with the same motifs as you will find in the museums produced over 100 years ago. Our current collection includes small wearable eggs with surprises such as a polar bear, diamond raindrop, apple with a worm, and a puppy. There are many new colors for example; pink, celadon green and turquoise blue. The jewelry has a contemporary design yet taken from the archives is a Faberge classic.
Janet Deleuse, All Rights Reserved