data-mce-fragment="1">The Fabergé Egg: Artistry, Ownership, and Cultural Legacy
Fabergé 1887 Coronation Egg is valued at $18million // Photo: Forbes Collection
In the realm of luxury, rarity, and cultural heritage, few items rival the allure and mystique of the Fabergé Egg. The story of these magnificent objects winds its way through Russian history, involves royal dynasties, gets tangled in the October Revolution, and eventually finds itself spread across the world in some of the most exclusive private collections. The Fabergé Egg is not merely an object of dazzling craftsmanship; it's a symbol of opulence, a work of art, and an artifact that has seen the rise and fall of empires.
The Story Behind the Egg
Peter Carl Fabergé
The story of the Fabergé Egg begins with its creator, Peter Carl Fabergé, a Russian jeweler of French descent. Born in 1846, Fabergé took over his father's small jewelry business in St. Petersburg. He soon gained prominence after the House of Fabergé was awarded a gold medal at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow in 1882. But what really solidified his fame was a commission from the Russian royal family.
The First Commission
Fabergé 1885 Hen Egg is valued at $6million // Photo: Forbes Collection
In 1885, Tsar Alexander III decided he wanted to give his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, an exceptional Easter gift. Fabergé was commissioned to create what would become the first in a series of spectacularly ornate eggs. This initial egg, known as the "Hen Egg," featured a simple white enamel shell that opened to reveal a gold yolk, which in turn contained a gold hen and a tiny diamond replica of the royal crown. The Tsarina was so enchanted by the gift that Fabergé was appointed as the "goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown" and thus began an annual tradition.
From Royal Gifts to Revolution
Fabergé 1916 Order of Saint George Egg valued at $7million // Photo: Forbes Collection
Between 1885 and 1917, Fabergé produced 50 Imperial Easter Eggs for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. Each egg was unique and intricately crafted, often containing surprises like miniatures of the royal palaces, carriages, and even a working trans-Siberian train. However, the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 led to the execution of the royal family and the looting of the Romanovs' treasures. Many of the Fabergé Eggs disappeared, and the House of Fabergé was nationalized.
Fabergé 1911 15th Anniversay Egg valued at $15million // Photo: Fabergé Museum
The original and most illustrious owners of the Fabergé Eggs were the Romanovs, Russia's ruling family from the 17th century until their tragic downfall in 1917. These eggs were a symbol of their immense wealth, power, and appreciation for art.
In the late 20th century, American publisher Malcolm Forbes became one of the most significant collectors. His collection, which consisted of nine Imperial eggs, was so prestigious that when he died, there was significant speculation about who would acquire it.
Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg purchased Forbes' collection of nine Fabergé Eggs in 2004 for a reported $100 million. His acquisition was symbolic, marking the return of these Russian cultural artifacts to their homeland.
Fabergé 1914 Catherine the Great Egg value $Unknown // Photo: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens
The construction of a Fabergé Egg employed the most exquisite materials available. While the base was often gold or silver, the outer shell was made of precious metals plated with enamel to create vibrant colors. The use of metals was not only lavish but also exceptionally skilled, often requiring complex techniques like guilloché, a type of engraving.
Jewels Used and Carat
Fabergé 1911 Bay Tree Egg valued at $15million // Photo: Forbes Collection
Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires were common, as were less traditional materials like rock crystal, ivory, and even Karelian birch. The exact carat weight for jewels in each egg varies, but they were always of the highest quality.
Fabergé 1901 Gatchina Palace Egg value $Unknown // Photo: Walters Art Museum
While sizes varied, Fabergé Eggs were often about 3 to 5 inches tall, small enough to be held in the hand but large enough to house intricate surprises.
Fabergé 1898 Lilies of the Valley Egg valued at $13million // Photo: Forbes Collection
Fabergé employed an array of artistic techniques from enameling to filigree to miniature painting. Each egg took up to a year or more to complete and was crafted by a team of highly skilled artisans.
Fabergé 1887 Third Imperial Easter Egg valued at $33million // Fabergé
As for their value, Fabergé Eggs are among the most expensive collector's items in the world. In 2007, a Fabergé Egg sold at Christie's for $18.5 million. However, their worth is not merely financial but also historical and cultural.
Fabergé 1913 Winter Egg valued at $15.6million // Photo: Christie's
The Fabergé Egg stands as a testament to a bygone era, capturing both the grandeur and tragedy of Russia's past. It tells the story of exceptional craftsmanship, of a turbulent period in Russian history, and of collectors who have been captivated by their allure. As long as there are those who value artistry, history, and the fascinating tales that come with both, the Fabergé Egg will remain an invaluable treasure.