The Golden Chicken and the Enameled Egg – Faberge and the Imperial Egg
With Pascha/Easter just around the corner, we’re celebrating the most opulent and (perhaps) popular of all Pascha/Easter gifts: the Faberge Imperial Egg.
Looking for a unique and beautiful gift this spring? Be sure to explore our collection of Faberge-inspired egg pendants. Our beautiful pendants make wonderful Pascha, Easter, and Mother’s Day gifts.
As a premier jeweler of celebrities and royalty, the House of Faberge created everything from earrings and necklaces to bells, enameled brooches, parasol handles, and even inkwells. However, when you think of Faberge, one piece immediately comes to mind: the Faberge egg.
While “Faberge egg” conjures images of opulently gilded, bejeweled eggs with delicately enameled, the first Faberge Imperial Egg was the exact opposite of what we have come to expect.
Pascha 1885 marked the 20th anniversary of Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Fedorovna. Eager to surprise his wife with a unique and beautiful gift to celebrate the occasion, the Tsar commissioned jeweler Peter Carl Faberge to create a gift for the Tsraina.
A simple white enameled egg was delivered to the palace on Pascha morning. Upon opening the egg, the Tsarina discovered a golden yolk inside. Much like the surprises tucked within a matryoshka doll, there was another gift hidden in the yolk: a golden hen (in this case, the egg came before the chicken). In turn, the hen contained a miniature version of the royal crown and a ruby egg (the crown and ruby egg have unfortunately since disappeared). The Tsarina was delighted with the lovely and humorous gift. A new tradition was born.
Every Pascha, the Tsar commissioned a new egg to be made. His only requirements were that the eggs must be unique and contain a surprise inside. After the Tsar’s death in 1894, his son, Tsar Nicholas II continued this tradition, gifting an egg each to his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna, and to his mother.
With each egg, Faberge sought to outdo his work from the previous year. From the singing nightingale that popped up from the top of the Bay Tree Egg to the wind-up peacock (found perched on a gold tree within the Peacock Egg which is now housed in the Hermitage Museum) that walked and spread its feathers, Faberge certainly lived up to his and the Tsars’ expectations with his ingenious, whimsical touches.
In terms of opulence and craftsmanship, the Winter Egg (designed in 1913 by Alma Pihl) is considered to be the most extravagant of the Imperial Eggs. As the House of Faberge describes it:
“[The egg] is made of carved rock crystal as thin as glass. This is embellished with engraving, and ornamented with platinum and diamonds, to resemble frost. The egg rests on a rock-crystal base designed as a block of melting ice. Its surprise is a magnificent and platinum basket of exuberant wood anemones. The flowers are made from white quartz, nephrite, gold and demantoid garnets and they emerge from moss made of green gold…It is set with 3,246 diamonds.”
From 1885 to 1916, 50 of these beautifully-crafted, gilded, and jeweled eggs were created for the Russian Imperial Family. It is worth noting that Faberge himself did not craft a single egg with his own hands – while he did personally design some of the eggs and worked with clients, he employed the finest jewelers in the world to work for him. The fruits of their talents (and attention to detail) can be seen in the Imperial Eggs.
Unfortunately, of the 50 Imperial Eggs made, only 43 of the eggs are accounted for (the remaining seven have been lost throughout the past 100 years). During the Russian Revolution, the eggs were looted and sold off (Queen Elizabeth II has three of them in her collection). Joseph Stalin personally sold off 14 of the Imperial Eggs (inadvertently saving them from being destroyed and lost to history). There were other eggs commissioned by Faberge’s elite clientele, but these pieces (although beautiful) lack the history, tradition, and imaginative details of the famous Imperial Eggs.
Many hope that the remaining seven eggs can be recovered – a hope reinforced by a recent discovery. Up until 2014, there were eight eggs missing until a scrap metal dealer had a golden tchotchke appraised (he was going to melt it down). The decorative egg was not only found to be worth $30 million – it was the long-lost third Imperial Egg (presented to Tsarina Maria Fedorovna in 1887)!
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has a stunning collection over 150 Faberge pieces (including 5 of the Imperial Eggs). Click here to view their vast collection.
We invite you to bring home of a piece of this history and Pascha/Easter tradition. Gallery Byzantium offers a rich collection of Faberge-style egg pendants. Many of our Faberge style egg pendants incorporate the same Byzantine and Russian religious symbolism reminiscent of the Faberge egg pendants from Carl Faberge’s jewelry workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In keeping with tradition, Russian-trained craftsmen handcraft the Faberge egg pendants for Gallery Byzantium. Each egg is crafted in sterling silver, set with semi-precious stones, and accented with delicately applied enamels and 24kt gold.
Tags: Easter, Egg Pendants, Faberge, Faberge Egg, History, Jewelry, March 2017, Pascha, Peter Carl Faberge, Russia, Scriptures Cross, Spring, Tsar Alexander III, Tsar Nicholas II
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