History of the Faberge

Faberge is the magical name which evokes the glittering world of the last Tsars of Russia and priceless treasures. In fact, the Faberge is not only one person, but family business, a small jewelry empire, where several generations of jewelers worked in cooperation.

The enterprise was opened in 1842, when Gustav Faberge established in St. Petersburg the shop of gold and diamond pieces. The affairs in workshop were successful which allowed him to give children an excellent education of children and made his mother, the daughter of a Danish artist Charlotte Yungshtedt, namely, she helped to develop the refined perception of beauty that has made their pieces of jewelry art.

Peter Carl has travelled in Europe for few years, studying  jewelry production. He has stayed for the long period of time in the studio in Frankfurt of jeweler Joseph Friedman, whom he called later his teacher.

Learning from the best European jewellers was not in vain, in 1872, 26-year-old Charles leads his father’s workshop. We cannot say that the Faberge workshop immediately became famous, success came only in the mid-80s, when the works of Faberge brothers have got own recognizable style. The talented goldsmith Michael Perkhin greatly facilitated it,  joined the studio in 1885 and worked there until 1903.

During this period, Carl was involved in the restoration works in the Hermitage. According to legend, a significant part of the work he performed for free, as it helped him to learn thoroughly the best works of jewelry art from the Hermitage collection. There Faberge got his first major official order – making copies of Scythian gold jewelry from the “treasure of the Kerch.” In May 1885 there was a significant event – Carl Faberge was awarded the title “Supplier of the highest court.”

Unique Faberge style

The Faberge combined a variety of artistic styles and directions: the Empire, Gothic, Art Nouveau, Neo classicism.  Faberge said once: “I have little interest in expensive thing, if its price is only determined by a lot of diamonds and pearls.”

The visiting card of the company was to create a product in the “Russian style”. Headdress with diamonds and silver cups with gems delights foreigners. Even then, the jewelry house began to produce jewelery,  which combine different gems and national motives.

Jewelers of Faberge created artful frame icons, crosses and church utensils for the Kremlin churches and monasteries. All this was carried out in the old Russian style and decorated with unusual patterns, the finest filigree and enamel painting.

Symbolism, floral patterns and filigree

The principle of Faberge was the lack of banality:  none of the pieces wasn’t repeated twice, and if the customer is begging to make a copy, the master still trying to make changes, to surpass the of the previous article. This constant race for more spectacular result, daily self-improvement quickly erected the House of Faberge’s in the category of the greatest jewellers of his time, which is recognized not only in Russia but also in Europe and America.

Orthodox symbols are also the attention of the House. Faberge created a gold frame for the icons, crosses, covers for the Gospels, Panagia and liturgical collections for churches and monasteries of Kremlin.

All of them were made in the old Russian style, exactly resembling items from 12 – 15 centuries, but they are much more elaborate, richly decorated with traditional for that time pearls, almandine and tourmalines, colourful enamels, very fine filigree, laid out in a stylized floral pattern, and metal carvings patterns.

The traditional ancient metal processing generally characterizes the “Old Russian” style of Faberge: silver buckets and Bratina, inlaid with quartz, chalcedony and amethyst adorned with stucco flowers and wonderful birds, sometimes entirely covered with bright coloured enamels, which strikes the eyes with styling’s finesse.

Famous Faberge eggs

Faberge eggs in the 19th century grew up the “market” of Easter eggs made of wood, porcelain, and then the gems and works of Faberge metal. The creative works of Faberge eclipsed all competitors, because this House produced also gifts for the royal family. An exception was made only for the rich entrepreneur Kelekh – they have made seven Faberge eggs for him.

The first Faberge egg was made as a present to the wife of Alexander III Maria Feodorovna in 1885. This was the so-called “chicken” egg. Outside, it was covered with white, simulating shell, enamel, and inside, in the “yolk” from matte gold – made of gold coloured chicken. Inside the chicken, in turn a small ruby crown is hidden. This Easter egg Faberge contributed assignment in the same year the title of Supplier of the Imperial court. This title gave the right to include the imperial double-headed eagle in their logo.

The subtlety of the work amazes everybody even today. Many of the works were made in the memory of significant developments. So, in the egg of heliotrope, covered with golden flowers, hidden in the base of aquamarine, which symbolises the expanse of the sea, the golden model of the cruiser “Memory of Azov”, on which the sons of Alexander III made the long journey to the East.

And in the other, silver, decorated with enamel egg, golden crown is kept miniature model of the train, which marks the creation of the Siberian Railway.

The first egg presented to Alexandra from Emperor is “Surprise.” The rose is regarded as a reminder of the homeland of the Empress, famous for its flowers. Its style is neoclassicism. Egg was made of coloured gold, red transparent and opaque white enamel, diamonds, velvet. The Bud was made of gold, opaque green and yellow enamel. The famous egg contains a little picture of Emperor Nicholas II. Egg opens and inside you can see the yellow rose bud, where in turn two surprises were found: a miniature model of the imperial crown and ruby ​​egg-shaped pendant hanging from it. Both surprises were removed from the egg before the egg was sold by the Soviet government in the 1920s.

“Twelve monograms” – the egg was made in 1896 by order of Emperor Nicholas II and presented to his mother, the widow Empress Maria Feodorovna in commemoration of his father, Alexander III. Currently located in the Hillwood Museum property. Jewelry egg is considered one of the most beautiful creations of Faberge. It consists of 6 panels, covered with dark blue, guilloche enamel ornaments. They dissected relief hoops inlaid with diamonds. Each panel contains the monogram MF (Maria Feodorovna) and AIII (Alexander III of), lined with diamonds, over which the imperial crown of diamonds is found.

Easter egg imperial court – “Egg with turning”. Production date – 1896. Egg is made of rock crystal and fringed strip strewn with diamonds. Inside the egg on a golden rod four miniatures in gold framework with the views of the Imperial Palace are strengthened. Miniatures are made by Johannes Zengrafom. Presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna for Easter 1896. Stored in the Fine Arts Museum of Virginia, Richmond, USA, collection of Lillian T. Prat.

However, the Easter eggs are not the only one area of activity that has made Faberge famous. A lot of them have worked with Russian gems – figures with carved stone were one of the significant items of income. Small monkeys, seals, mouse, rhinoceroses, dogs –  Faberge’s “zoo” was not little, and a stone selected for animal, which most accurately conveys its natural colour, for the pig – rose quartz, for seal – obsidian, for fish-carp – orange carnelian ..

Art-deco features

Another area of use in the work of Faberge gems – amazing “Stone Flower“, placed in the “bowls” of rock crystal, cut so skillfully that they supposedly filled with water. Stems are made of gold and silver, leaf – jade, petals painted, and enamels are carefully polished, so that the flower seems “alive”. “Dandelion” is made of silver and gold, and natural flower pile is glued to stamens; dandelion series were particularly popular.

Not only the Russian nobles, but European aristocrats collected golden basket with lilies of the valley, branches of rowans and cactus in pots.
For the majority of jewelry Faberge is characterised by following art deco style – curved lines, a bizarre blend of exotic oriental motifs and floral patterns, the use of “naturalistic” themes. A great brooches in the form of insects and birds, branches and flowers and shiny pendants are typical for Faberge works – striking ornamentation and symmetry, at the same time reminds the ancient ornaments of the Middle Ages by its massiveness. Some parts are often enlarged, in contrast to the elegant statuettes and eggs which are extremely lush and immediately catch the eye.

The house of Faberge was not the most expensive of all – but his works are distinguished by a skillfulyl handwork which are visible to anyone.

And it is unlikely the new works of jewelry art will be able to overshadow the fact that was created by great family.

Source:  Nathalie Miroshnik – trends-jewelry