With Easter approaching, how could images of the precious eggs and their legendary story not spring to mind. How many of you have heard of Fabergé eggs? Learning about their story is captivating and enthralling, like reading a novel, and some of them are true works of art, the forbidden dream of collectors all over the world.
Fabergé is a historical Russian jewellery house established in 1842 by Gustav Fabergé.
The jeweller had a remarkable success from 1872, when the Tsar Alexander III commissioned his son Peter Carl, to create a series of precious Easter eggs.
For Orthodox Christians, the Easter egg is much more than a celebration at the end of the fasting period, it is a real declaration of the Resurrection of Christ.
In the upper classes and more so in the Imperial family, instead of exchanging hens’ eggs that had been blessed during the liturgy, the habit of exchanging jewelled eggs, made with precious materials became popular.
The first egg was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III, as a surprise for Easter for his wife Maria Fyodorovna. The egg, white in colour with opaque enamel, had a Chinese box structure or similar to the Russian Matryoshka dolls: inside there was a gold-egg, containing in turn an enamelled gold-coloured hen with ruby eyes. The latter enclosed a miniature copy of the imperial crown containing a small, egg-shaped ruby.
Legend has it that the Tsarina was so delighted by this present that Fabergé was named “Court Jeweller” by Alexander, and was commissioned to make an Easter gift every year from that moment on, on the condition that every egg had to be unique and contain a surprise. From then until 1917, 57 eggs were made. The preparation of the egg took a whole year. Once a design had been chosen, a team of craftsmen worked to assemble the egg. As requested by the Tsarina, the themes and appearance of the eggs vary widely. There are eggs dedicated to birthday, anniversary and coronation celebrations, as well as those made to celebrate a specific event or achievement from the previous year.
Another distinctive feature of the eggs is their Matryoshka Russian doll-like structure and the surprises they contain; sometimes jewels to wear but also miniature or precious stones.
Until 2006, only twenty-one eggs were still in Russia until a Russian entrepreneur bought nine eggs that had been previously been owned by the American publisher Forbes, thus returning them to their country of origin. Today smaller collections can be found in museums across the United States, four eggs are in private collections whilst eight are still missing and are considered to be lost… this also contributes to the fascination and legend of these precious works of art!