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Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Starting in 1885, the Faberge egg became an Easter tradition in the Romanov family,
each year, becoming ever larger and more elaborate.
The first time I ever heard of Faberge was fifty years ago when I graduated from high school and someone gave me a small bottle of cologne by that name. Even today, I still have a little of it left, and it still brings back fond memories--first dates, cruising around with the guys, wasting thirty-cent a gallon gas looking for first dates. It was probably another twenty years or more before I came to realize why the cologne maker borrowed (or stole) the name Faberge for their product. (The truth is, the family sued, the name was sold several times, and Rayette Inc. the makers of Brut men's toiletries, ended up with it.) Before I ever heard of their famous eggs though, it sounded like maybe the name for a French chocolatier rather than a Russian fine jeweler (actually the family was of French descent).

Gustav Faberge,
the founder.
Peter Carl Faberge,
the egg maker.
Gustav Faberge came to Russia in the 1830s as an apprentice goldsmith, then started creating his expensive baubles in Saint Petersburg around 1842 from a basement store, though one in a fashionable shopping district. It was another forty years before they made it up to a ground level establishment. Gustav's son, Peter Carl, followed him into the business as the company, during the 1880s, became involved in restoring valuable jewelry artifacts belonging to the Hermitage museum. This led to their own work also being displayed within the museum's hallowed walls, which led to Tsar Alexander III commissioning the House of Faberge to creating an Easter egg gift for his wife. She was delighted.

The Hen Egg, 1885, by Faberge
This first effort came to be known as the Hen Egg. It consisted of an unspectacular white enameled egg which opened to reveal a golden yolk, which opened to reveal a golden hen, which opened to reveal a replica of the imperial crown from which was suspended a tiny ruby egg. In the years that followed Peter Carl Faberge was given complete artistic freedom to create the "Imperial Eggs," each one with a surprise buried deep within. Even the Tsar didn't know what to expect each year when his wife "cracked opened" the egg. Faberge went on to create fifty-three more eggs for the royal family until 1918 when the Bolsheviks nationalized Faberge, deciding to try their own hand at making fancy eggs...only to shoot their best customer.

The Faberge Coronation Egg, 1897, perhaps the most famous
and elaborate of all the Imperial Eggs, took fifteen months
(working day and night) to craft with all its working parts.

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