The House of Fabergé is a jewelry company that was first founded in 1842 in Imperial Russia by Gustav Fabergé. The House specialized in making gold boxes and retail jewelry, earning a solid reputation throughout Russia. Though it was not until Gustav’s son, Peter Carl Fabergé took over the company, that the House became a celebrated part of Russian culture. Indeed, Peter Carl Fabergé became the creative and entrepreneurial genius behind the world-renowned House of Fabergé. With his superb craftsmanship, dedication, and talent, Fabergé fused artistry with jewelry to create some of the most exquisite pieces the world has ever known, including the magnificent Fabergé eggs.
Fabergé was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1846. As a young boy, Peter apprenticed to his father. He continued his education in Dresden, where he was heavily influenced by the Classical and Baroque splendors he discovered in the Green Vaults—a historic museum that holds the largest collection of treasures in Europe. Fabergé soon embarked upon an epic journey, traveling extensively across Europe. He immersed himself in various cultures, educating himself in the galleries of Europe’s most prominent museums and studying at Schloss’s Commercial College in Paris. Fabergé continued to travel and study until 1872, when he returned to Russia and married Augusta Julia Jacobs. For the next decade he worked under his father’s trusted workmaster, Hiskias Pendin, who mentored Fabergé and taught him the business.
After Hiskias Pendin passed away in 1882, Fabergé was named head of his father’s company, The House of Fabergé. Fabergé’s brother joined the business, and together, the siblings propelled the business to new heights. At the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow in 1882, the House of Fabergé was a standout. In fact, the critical acclaim was so impressive that the Tsar Alexander III ordered that objects by the House of Fabergé be exhibited in the Hermitage, as examples of excellence in Russian craftsmanship. Thus began the relationship between Fabergé and Russia’s Imperial Court.
As head of the House, Fabergé helped shift the focus from producing jewelry to creating art. He revived the lost art of enamelling and focused on setting every single stone in its most optimal position. Sometimes, Fabergé would make ten or more wax models so that he could examine all possibilities before deciding on the optimal setting. The House also created “object de fantaisie,” or object of fantasy, richly adorned and embellished. These exquisite pieces captured the imagination of the world, conjuring up visions of Belle Epoque and transporting them to another time. Indeed, the House of Fabergé created masterpieces that remain timeless in their beauty, craftsmanship, and artistic ideals.
Of course, the House is most famous for its Fabergé eggs. The story of the eggs begins with Tsar Alexander III. It is believed that the Tsar had been entranced by an 18th century egg owned by Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark. So when it came time to celebrate his 20th anniversary of his betrothal to the Empress Marie Fedorovna, the Tsar decided to surprise his wife with a jeweled Easter Egg. Having met Fabergé at the Pan-Russian Exhibit in 1882, the Tsar was already familiar with the virtuoso’s work and immediately commissioned him to create the egg. Tsar Alexander was heavily involved in the process and execution, constantly giving Fabergé his input on color and design. The Empress was absolutely delighted with the jeweled egg. Crafted from gold, its opaque white enameled shell opened to reveal yet another surprise, a solid yellow gold yolk. The egg, which became known as the “Hen Egg,” was so remarkable that it became the starting point for an annual Imperial tradition that continued for 32 years—from 1895 until 1917. During this time, the House of Fabergé produced the most opulent and exquisite jeweled eggs the world has ever known.
The House of Fabergé has earned an international reputation for its breathtaking work. Royalty, nobility, tycoons, industrialists and the artistic elite celebrate the brilliant craftsmanship and refined ideals of beauty made possible by Fabergé. With unparalleled innovation and ingenuity, Fabergé’s contribution to the artistic community was immense, forever changing the world’s understanding of jewelry as a form of art.
If you’d like to see some of the exquisite examples of The House of Fabergé’s brilliant, visit the Bowers Museum in Southern California. Their “Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler To The Tsars” is currently open and will run through January 6, 2013. Click here for more information on the exhibit.