The Essence of Faberge
Written by Toby Osbourne
OPULENT, INTRICATE, EXTRAVAGANT – the House of Faberge embraces these qualities with its timelessly luxurious and ornate designs. For the first time since 1917, the brand is back with a new collection.
The Original House of Faberge
A jewellery house renowned across the globe, the name ‘Faberge’ is synonymous with exquisitely elaborate, lavish pieces. Many of these were produced over a century ago by founder Peter Carl Faberge, the mastermind behind the breathtaking ‘Faberge eggs’ collection.
Born in 1846 in St Petersburg (Petrograd/Leningrad), Russia, Peter Carl was the son of a jeweller, Gustav Faberge, and his Danish wife Charlotte Jungstedt. With an eye for art, Peter Carl undertook a course at the Dresden Arts and Crafts school – intending to ultimately take over the family business – but first he wanted to see the world and learn from the masters. He toured Europe, receiving tuition from expert goldsmiths in Germany, France, and England. Attending a course at Schloss’s Commercial College in Paris, he spent his free time wandering art galleries and museums. Then, upon his return to St Petersburg in 1872, at the age of 26, he got married and began a decade of mentorship beneath his father’s best jeweller Hiskias Pendin.
Peter Carl later took the reins of the House of Faberge, and was awarded the title ‘Master Goldsmith’. He promptly changed the firm’s focus from producing jewellery in the fashionable French 18th century-style to becoming artist-jewellers, setting each stone with an eye for style and detail. Accordingly, the House launched a line of gold- and jewel-embellished items. But Faberge’s undisputed place in history was solidified when, in 1885, Tzar Alexander III commissioned the House of Faberge to create an Easter Egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress.
The Hen Egg
A magical and fantastic construction of gold, opaque-white enamel, rubies, and diamonds, the masterstroke was the delightfully hidden surprises inside this Hen Egg. When opened, a gold yolk was revealed, inside which was a gold hen, which itself opened to reveal a diamond and gold crown, containing a ruby pendant. Not only was this a smash-hit with the Tzar and his family, it began the tradition of Faberge eggs. Of the 50 known Imperial Eggs that were made, 42 survive today.
Now – after the House of Faberge closed its doors amidst the Russian Revolution – the legendary design house is re-launching a new 2009 jewellery collection. Inspired by Peter Carl Faberge’s original work, these contemporary pieces were conceptualised to honour the incredible legacy of the House of Faberge.
“We wanted this first collection to reflect the spirit and ethos of Peter Carl Faberge,” explains Faberge’s Creative Director, Katharina Flohr. “To be beautiful in every aspect, reflect a French sensitivity with a Russian soul, be poetic and modern at the same time, demonstrate a bit of humour and wit, as well as an occasional surprise, always in the pursuit of absolute perfection and harmony in design and materials.”
More than just eggs
Known for his imaginative, clever designs and the jewel-encrusted Imperial Egg collection created for the Russian Tzars, Faberge also made fine jewellery and silverware. And while there aren’t any eggs amongst this new collection, the House of Faberge has not forgotten its remarkable origins. “Faberge was the official jeweller to the Imperial court of Russia, and amongst his most known creations were also jewellery and objects of virtщ, enamelled cigarette cases and carved animals to name but a few,” notes Flohr. Faberge’s famous work has captured the imagination of many admirers and collectors of opulent, luxury items; this new collection hopes to follow in these footsteps. “On our journey of discovery into the world and times of Faberge, we have defined three themes that form the backbone of the launch collection ‘Les Fabuleuses’,” elaborates Katharina Flohr.
“‘Les Fleurs de Faberge’, one of the collection’s themes, is based on Faberge’s flower studies, his stone flower carvings, and the flower obsession at the turn of the century in Russia where flowers were a symbol of spring, hope and renewal [after] the long winter’s gloom,” Flohr says. One of the many floral pieces created by Faberge is the Bouquet of Lilies Clock Egg – a rich golden egg, topped with a luscious bouquet of white lilies.
Inspired by folklore
The second theme in the collection is ‘Les Fables de Faberge’, Flohr explains: “This is based on Russian legends, folk and fairy tales. The wealth of fantasy and imagination that filled the life of Russian people is often expressed in fairy tales, stressing the values of the humble over the rich and powerful, the strength of a true and clean heart, a closeness and respect for nature.”
A piece based on this mythical theme includes the Sadko Sea Horse Brooch – inspired by the nautically-set Russian fairy tale of Sadko – featuring stunning white diamond stripes across the seahorse’s body, which is studded with a mix of green and blue gemstones, including violet sapphires.
The collection’s third theme is ‘Les Fauves de Faberge’, based on the influential bohemian, early modernist vision of early 20th century artists who united the worlds of music, painting, literature, theatre, and ballet, with colour employed to enhance the expression.”
Faberge’s Favourite Egg?
While Peter Carl Faberge himself treasured each piece that was created out of his atelier, and every masterpiece was “a labour of love,” according to the House of Faberge’s Katharina Flohr, it is believed that he never revealed a special affection for a single piece in his collection. However, the same cannot be said for his surviving heirs.
Flohr revealed, “Tatiana Faberge, the great-granddaughter of Peter Carl Faberge – who is now the founding member of the Heritage council – has a favourite egg: the Clover Egg”.
Created in 1902 with green gold, platinum, rose-cut diamonds, and rubies, it has an intricate patchwork of clover-leaf designs. Now very fragile, it does not travel and has never left Russia.