An Introduction to the Splendor of Fabergé

5 minute read

The Fabergé family can be traced back to the 17th century and the House of Fabergé is unequitable with any other design firm in the world. You may have heard of their name already, as they’re legendary for their elaborate and ornate jewel-encrusted enamel eggs that line the interiors of museum giants like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Beyond just the beautiful eggs, however, the Fabergé workshop worked to create a multitude of items: walking sticks, jewelry, and other objets d’art. Read more to discover the significance of the Fabergé workshop.

An exquisite enameled silver kovsh that encapsulates the luxurious artistry of the Fabergé firm. An exquisite enameled silver kovsh that encapsulates the luxurious artistry of the Fabergé firm.

Gustav + Peter Carl Fabergé

The Fabergé firm began when a young Gustav Fabergé, born in 1814, traveled to St. Petersburg where he first learned the techniques of working with gold. Studying under master Andreas Ferdinand Spiegel, Gustav entered the well-known firm of Keibel, a firm was so respected that they re-worked the Russian crown jewels in 1814. In 1842, Gustav acquired enough technical knowledge and skill that he opened his first location – a jewelry and silver shop that became the foundation for what would soon become the great House of Fabergé.

An elegant cane was crafted by legendary Fabergé artist, Henrik Wigström. An elegant cane was crafted by legendary Fabergé artist, Henrik Wigström.

In 1846, Gustav and his wife, Charlotte Jungstedt, welcomed their first son, Peter Carl Fabergé. Soon, it was Peter who would become the most famous goldsmith and jeweler of the period.

A gold and enamel vanity case that epitmozes Fabergé's business model to create "objects of fantaisie", objects with both an artistic and functional value. A gold and enamel vanity case that epitmozes Fabergé's business model to create "objects of fantaisie", objects with both an artistic and functional value.

During his adolescence, Peter drew his design inspiration from world travels and interaction with decorative objects from past centuries, particularly the grandeur of 18th-century objets d’art. Embarking upon a Grand Tour of Europe, Peter was able to witness impressive craftsmanship techniques from past centuries in leading European museums. In 1866, the young Fabergé returned to St. Petersburg and continued his voyage of examining forgotten artistry and styles by becoming involved with cataloguing and restoring old masterpieces crafted by master goldsmiths at the Hermitage Museum. Soon, Peter became undeniably enamored with the 18th-century French gold engraved snuff boxes whose chased panels were delicately inlaid with vibrant precious gemstones and the colorfully enameled pieces before him. Undoubtedly, it was during this period that the remarkable talents of past genres were illuminated before him and the seeds were planted for using past techniques and styles as inspiration for future Fabergé creations.

Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), at work in his workshop. Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), at work in his workshop.

Gaining Momentum

Perhaps the most pivotal moment in the history of Fabergé is 1882, when Peter ultimately took over as director of the company. Providing the business with fresh energy and momentum, Peter brought forth his newly re-discovered artistry techniques in creation of contemporary designs. With consummate craftsmanship and an inventive spirit, the House of Fabergé truly transformed even everyday objects, such as cane a parasol handles, into delicate works of art.

A guilloché enamel Kovsh, shown with Fabergé workmaster’s mark of Feodor Alexeievich Afanasiev, and 84 zolotnik mark A guilloché enamel Kovsh, shown with Fabergé workmaster’s mark of Feodor Alexeievich Afanasiev, and 84 zolotnik mark

Much of Fabergé’s success can be credited to Peter’s novel business model of creating objects of fantaisie – an idea that revolves around creating objects that are the product of an artist-craftsman’s imagination, resulting in a small object having both artistic and functional value. This business model was so positively received, that the workshop was swamped with commissions almost instantly. In order to meet the number of orders, Peter was forced to move to a new, larger location that would accommodate his increasing staff. Between 1907 and 1917, the workshop employed 700 goldsmiths and craftsman.

By the early 20th century, the Fabergé workshop transformed into one of the foremost jewelry firms in the world. By the early 20th century, the Fabergé workshop transformed into one of the foremost jewelry firms in the world.

Royal Ties

The House of Fabergé is incredibly noted and historically revered by their strong imperial and royal ties. In 1885, after the firm completed the first commissioned Imperial Easter Egg for Tsar Alexander III, Fabergé was granted the most honorable title of “Supplier to the Imperial Court.”

Comprised of a myriad of hardstones, enameling, and gemstones, this Fabergé walking is evocative of craft techniques from the 18th century and a testimony to Peter Carl Fabergé's design inspiration Comprised of a myriad of hardstones, enameling, and gemstones, this Fabergé walking is evocative of craft techniques from the 18th century and a testimony to Peter Carl Fabergé's design inspiration

From 1885-1893, Fabergé created 10 of these remarkable eggs for Tsar Alexander III as gifts to his wife the Empress Marie Fedronova. In the years following, the House of Fabergé would complete 40 more unique and opulent eggs for Nicholas II, a total of two per year, until 1916. Each year, in continuation of his father's tradition, Nicholas gifted one precious egg to his mother, and the second to his wife.

Boundless Fabergé Finery

Beyond the elaborate eggs, the Fabergé workshop would create a wide variety of objets d’art.

An enamel-topped walking stick that combines the luxury, style and character for which Fabergé is known. An enamel-topped walking stick that combines the luxury, style and character for which Fabergé is known.

Walking sticks became an increasingly important wardrobe necessity during the Victorian era and The Fabergé workshop soon followed trend. Fabergé walking sticks epitomize luxury, topped by stunning colored enamel handles, inspired by Peter’s world travels, inlaid with dazzling white diamonds, glistening white pearls and a myriad of other gems and hardstones.

A rhodonite bell push, accentuated with silver gilt mounts and a sapphire-top, crafted by the Fabergé workshop. A rhodonite bell push, accentuated with silver gilt mounts and a sapphire-top, crafted by the Fabergé workshop.

Other sumptuous goods include Kovshs’, a type of one-handled drinking vessel, silver goods, and bell pushes. In short, Fabergé objets d’art and jewelry encompass luxury and beauty at its very best and Fabergé encompasses a glorious oeuvre that radiates with the very finest craftsmanship and techniques.

Interested to learn more about the Fabergé workshop? Read more about the opulence and importance of Fabergé walking sticks.

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