Peter Karl Fabergé – Jeweler to the Czars
Peter Karl Fabergé – Jeweler to the Czars
Master jeweler Peter Karl Fabergé (1846-1920) is the grandson of a French Huguenot who settled in Estonia. He was born in St. Petersburg, where his father is a jeweler.
After his studies, Karl Fabergé leaves for Frankfurt am Main, where he works as an apprentice to the jeweler Friedmann. After his apprenticeship he travels with friends throughout Europe and visits many of the museums in London, Paris, Florence and Dresden. Fabergé is fascinated by the many artistic styles, old or new, he encounters and he later, in his creations, eclectically combines these styles with elements of the East and the West.
In 1870 he returns to St.Petersburg and takes over the jewelry shop of his father. His exceptional craftsmanship, imagination and creativity guide him in the creation of his first jewels that draw the attention of the local nobility.
In 1882 Fabergé wins a Gold Medal at the Pan-Russian exhibition and attracts the eye of Czar Aleksandr III. Soon he is appointed Purveyor to the Royal Household, a position that opens him the doors to the highest European nobility.
In the mid-1880s, Fabergé presents his idea to create an elaborate Easter egg for the Czarina to Czar Aleksandr III. Aleksandr is enthusiastic and commissions the egg. The Czarina absolutely adores it. This is the beginning of a tradition that continues until the October Revolution in 1917: every year, Fabergé creates a new egg for the Imperial household.
As well as an exceptional jeweler, Karl Fabergé is a successful
So imaginatively conceived and opulently executed, Fabergé's work elevates jewelry to a decorative art unequaled since the Renaissance. The novelty of combining artistic excellence with functional value – and a touch of whimsy – so captures the imagination of the aristocracy that the Fabergé workshops are flooded with commissions, transforming an ordinary goldsmith shop into the famous "House of Fabergé." But though aristocrats, barons of industry, kings and queens alike all cross his threshold seeking gifts, Fabergé's first duty is always to the Czar.
Year by year, Fabergé's Imperial Easter eggs reach new heights
of invention and extravagance, expressions in miniature of the life of Imperial
In the harsh light
of historical hindsight, the Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs can be seen as nothing
more than the frivolous indulgences of a decadent monarchy. But stripped of revolutionary
After the Russian revolution in 1917, Fabergé is forced to close his workshop and flee Russia. Heading first for France, he settles down in Switzerland, where he dies in 1920, in Lausanne, at the age of 74.
Fabergé secured his place in history by using ancient, almost
extinct goldsmith techniques and elevating them to a previously unknown level of
excellence. He worked with many materials, including a broad range of precious metals
and alloys such as yellow, red, white and pale blue gold. Fabergé was especially
This is what H.C.
Bainbridge, associate in the London Fabergé shop and close friend and “ambassador”
“How many royal "appointments"
He was a genius on the rampage, always in search of something on which to vent his creative skill, and on this quest his clients helped him. Now you cannot give a pearl necklace to a Queen, or a diamond to a Rothschild, or a ruby to a Greville; they have them all. This was what set Fabergé on his quest and it was just this which made him supreme. It was all those beautiful articles of fantaisie, those bibelots for the table, which made his fame. He became the first in Russia to make objects of elegance, taste and feeling; his work the wide world over became known as a style of its own, "Fabergé".
But not only as a master of style does he deserve a niche in the pillar of fame. Two arts: enameling on gold and silver, and stone- cutting both experienced a renaissance and pitch of excellence that was very largely due to him. His cigarette-cases, enameled on gold and silver, are incomparable. His flowers, cut in precious and semi-precious stones, almost transcend nature in their delicate tracery and beauty of form; and his animals catch every trick and turn and are cut with boldness and a verve which make them seem almost alive.
With a catalogue of successes behind him, it was at the "Exposition Universelle" in Paris in 1900, that he was acclaimed Master by the Goldsmiths of France in the capital of the country from which, 215 years before, his persecuted ancestors had fled.
Here the Empresses AleksandraFyodorovna
Easter was, as you know, a great time
in Russia in Czarist days. Everybody kissed everybody else, and said: "Christ
is risen"; receiving in reply the words: "Verily He is risen"; and
everybody gave everybody else a present. Easter eggs took first place as the age-old
symbol of "Resurrection", "New Life" and "hopefulness".
Fabergé was an artist in more ways than one, and his unique gift was a subtle genius for creating just the right situation which evoked in his patrons the desire to possess something which, for the moment, had only taken shape in his mind. When he proposed to the Emperor Aleksandr III (the year 1885 is the nearest I can come to a date) that for the next Easter gift for the Empress he should make an egg with some surprise inside it, the Czar was all agog to know what it was to be.
To keep an Emperor on tenterhooks may quite easily prove a dangerous proceeding, but Fabergé kept his secret; and, loving a joke, he produced what was, to all appearance, an ordinary hen's egg, containing a series of "surprises" wrought in gold and platinum, precious gems and enamel.
The Czar was so pleased that he gave Fabergé a standing order for an egg every Easter-tide, and a bargain was struck between Emperor and Craftsman. The latter was given carte blanche to make whatever took his fancy, and the former asked no questions; the kernel of the agreement being that each egg must have some surprise inside.
During the lifetime of Aleksandr III
only one egg was made each year, and this the Czar gave to the Czarina Maria Fyodorovna.
But from the time of the accession of Nikolai II, two were made each year; one to
be given to the Czarina AleksandraFyodorovna
Today, as the outcome of the original joke, there are in existence forty-nine Imperial eggs which for ingenuity, craftsmanship and beauty of design, it is no exaggeration to say, surpass anything of a like nature which has yet come from a goldsmith's workshop.
Of all the works of Fabergé, the Imperial Easter eggs are creating the greatest interest today. For all time they are a monument to his master mind and skill.”
The Fabergé Family History
1685 - the Fabergé family flee the
Huguenot persecution after the Edict of Nantes, leaving Catholic France for Germany.
1814 - Gustav Fabergé, son of Peter Fabergé and father of the famous Karl Fabergé, is born.
1830's - Gustav Fabergé moves to St. Petersburg and is taught by Andreas Ferdinand Spiegel the goldsmith art.
1842 - Gustav Fabergé opens a jewelry shop at Bolschaya Morskaya Street in
1846 - Peter Karl Fabergé is born in St. Petersburg.
1860 - Gustav Fabergé retires to Dresden, Germany and Karl Fabergé becomes an apprentice to the jeweler Friedmann in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Fabergé business in Russia continues to grow under the auspices of Peter Hiskias Pendin, Gustav Fabergé's partner.
1861-1865 - Karl Fabergé trains to goldsmith in a four year apprenticeship in Europe.
1862 - Karl Fabergé's brother, Agathon, is born.
1865 - Karl Fabergé returns to St. Petersburg and enters his father's firm.
1872 - Karl Fabergé marries Augusta Julia Jakobs and takes over his father's business.
1874 - Karl's first son, Evgeny Fabergé, is born. Fabergé is mentioned in the lists of the Imperial Cabinet for the first time.
1876 - Agathon, Karl Fabergé's second son, is born.
1877 - 1877 - Aleksandr , Karl Fabergé's third son, is born.
Agathon, Karl Fabergé's younger brother, joins the Fabergé firm.
1884 - Mikhail Perkhin joins the Fabergé firm and later becomes head workmaster.
1885 - Karl Fabergé is named "Supplier to the Court of His Imperial Majesty," and Czar Aleksandr III orders the first Imperial Easter egg for his wife Maria. The Fabergé company is awarded a gold medal at the Nuremberg Exhibition for its superb reproductions of the gold Scythian treasures which had only recently been unearthed in Russia.
1886 - Karl Fabergé opens a Moscow branch of the House of Fabergé.
1894 - Karl Fabergé's son, Eugene, joins the firm.
1896 - The House of Fabergé receives the State Emblem at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Nijny-Novgorod.
1897 -At the Nordic Exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden, Karl Fabergé is appointed "Goldsmith to the Court of the King of Sweden and Norway".
1898 - Karl Fabergé begins renovating the premises at 24 Bolshaya Morskaya Street, which opens for the first time in 1900.
1900 - Fabergé publicly displays some of the Imperial Easter eggs and other miniatures for the first time at the Paris Exposition Universelle. He is awarded a Gold Medal and the cross of the Legion d'Honneur.
1901 – The Odessa branch of the House of Fabergé is opened.
1903 - A branch of the House of Fabergé is opened in London.
1905 -The Kiev branch of the House of Fabergé is opened.
1910 - The Kiev branch is closed down.
1914 -The Fabergé firm is ordered to begin production of small arms for the front and dressing material for the wounded. Most items are made of copper or gunmetal in order to preserve precious metals and are only stamped with the Russian Imperial Eagle and "1914 War".
1915 - The Fabergé workshops begin to produce war supplies. The London branch is closed.
1916 - The House of Fabergé is converted to a joint stock company.
1920 - September: Karl Fabergé dies in Lausanne, Switzerland.
1921 - Agathon is released from prison to work on the Crown jewels under Soviet orders.
1928 - Agathon escapes from Russia.
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