Faberge Egg History – The Delightful Tale of a Delicate Art
No one celebrates Easter quite like the Russians. For them, it is essentially the biggest feast of the year. While they have their own way of celebrating the day, there are quite a few common ones. While we are not sure if they have turkey on the table or not, we know that they definitely exchange Easter eggs. A short stroll down the long history and you will know that they are the ones who actually took the Easter eggs exchange to a whole new level.
The Faberge Egg History, the most elaborate and expensive of Easter eggs, is strongly tied to the history of Imperial Russia. It is almost amusing how something as delicate as an egg became a symbol of power for the Empire.
No wonder the beauty of those eggs is mesmerizing and if you look at them for long, you will feel lost in the great attention to detail and almost superhuman skills invested in the creation. All these facts make those pretty little things extremely precious, and to be honest, powerful.
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There are many people who have mastered the art after years of practice. Yet, the original Russian ones remain the most valuable of all. In order to understand the true value of the Faberge egg, however, one needs to learn about the Faberge Egg History associated with the creation of these eggs as well as the evolution of egg craft in our time.
A Tradition as Old as Time
The tradition of Easter eggs goes as far as the first Easter celebration as the egg symbolizes the empty tomb of Jesus. Alexandra III, the Czar who ruled Russia from 1881 to 1894, was said to be exceptionally fond of his wife Czarina Maria Fedorova. The Easter of 1885 fell close to the twentieth anniversary of their union, and the Czar decided to commission a unique Easter egg for his beloved wife.
The Czar was aware of a piece of egg owned by his wife’s aunt and how his wife was fascinated by that piece since her childhood. He hired a young but well-known goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé’s to create an Easter egg similar to the one owned by the Czarina’s aunt. Peter was the son of Gustav Fabergé, the actual founder of Faberge. Born with gifted talent, Peter learned the craft from his father. He garnered much reputation after winning a Gold Medal for his breathtaking replicas of antique treasures of Kerch.
The Imperial Series is a first in Faberge Egg History
Made from gold, the first Faberge egg, the Hen, was made from gold with an opaque shell that opened up to reveal the gold one. The gold shell also opened to reveal a beautiful crafted multicolored hen that too opened up to unveil a miniature replica of the imperial crown made from diamond. The real surprise is said to be a small ruby pendant hanging from that crown. Both the crown and the pendant however, are now lost.
Czarina Maria was greatly impressed by that amazing piece of craft, and delighted by her happiness, the Czar appointed Faberge the royal goldsmith commissioned to craft an egg every year. Since then, it became a tradition of the Romanov family.
Truly Imperial Extravagance
When Alexander’s son Nicholas II became the Czar of Russia in 1896, he continued the tradition but ordered two instead of one decorative Easter egg. One was for his mother and one for his new bride, Czarina Alexandra Fedorovna. In 1997, Nicholas commissioned one of the most extravagant pieces of the imperial series to celebrate the first coronation anniversary.
The egg appears to be covered in a gold brocaded Imperial mantle encrusted with diamonds. Inside the egg is a brilliant miniature copy of the carriage rode by the Czarina on the day of coronation. One of the craftsmen wrote in his memoirs that it took 15 months of working 16 hours a day to create the coronation egg. The tradition continued, Faberge’s shop became the ‘House of Faberge’ responsible for turning jewelry making into an art form. By the time Russia got hit by the revolution, there were a total of 50 Faberge eggs commissioned and created for the royal family.
The Revolution and Rebirth
In 1917, the House of Romanov was overthrown by the revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks communist took over. The communists considered these precious eggs as a symbol of extravagant ways the former royal family was indulged in. While they didn’t destroy the precious treasure, they collected them and send them off to be stored in the Kremlin Armory in Moscow where they remained forgotten till Stalin came to power and saw them as a wonderful opportunity to make money.
The world was once again familiarized with the beauty of Faberge treasure. During the 1920s and 1930s, most of the eggs were sold to foreign buyers.
The Current Value
Out of the fifty imperial eggs, eight are missing and ten remain at Kremlin. In 2004, Russian billionaire, Viktor Vekselberg, initiated the attempt to bring back the Romanov treasure to Russia. He bought nine eggs and several other items estimated to cost a total of $90 million. Other than the imperial series, there were several other Faberge eggs produced by the House of Faberge. The Rothschild egg was sold for more than 14 million dollars in 2007, breaking three different records at the same time.
The art of crafting Faberge style eggs itself has prevailed with many artists and masters creating unique ornamented eggs. The trademark ‘Faberge’ itself had been sold several times to companies that produced their own line up of decorated Easter eggs. While these may not have a history associated with them, the amount of effort and attention to details this art requires make each egg precious and valuable in its own way.
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