Faberge Eggs: the Mystery Behind Them

The most important feast of the Russian Orthodox church calendar is Easter. It is celebrated with the exchanging of eggs and three kisses. The Faberge eggs began in 1884 with an Easter egg made for the czar that became a gift for his wife, Czarina Maria. The egg reminded the empress of her homeland, and so from then on it was agreed that Faberge would make an Easter egg each year for Maria.
| 14 April 2007

The Eggs: An Overview

A Brief History

The most important feast of the Russian Orthodox church calendar is Easter. It is celebrated with the exchanging of eggs and three kisses. The Faberge eggs began in 1884 with an Easter egg made for the czar that became a gift for his wife, Czarina Maria. The egg reminded the empress of her homeland, and so from then on it was agreed that Faberge would make an Easter egg each year for Maria. Faberge designed Easter eggs for another eleven years until Alexander III died. Then Nicholas II, Alexander’s son, continued the tradition. It was agreed that the Easter gift would always have an egg shape and would hold a surprise. These projects became top priority of the company and were planned and worked on far in advance–a year or longer. The surprise was always kept secret.

The designs for the Imperial eggs were inspired by historical art works that Faberge imitated or copied from his travels or from the Hermitage. However, there is a poignant representation of what is now Russian history in the design of a number of these eggs. There were eggs to commemorate the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, the completion of the Trans Siberian Railway, and anniversaries. There were eggs depicting the Imperial yacht-Standart, the Uspensky Cathedral, the Gatchina Palace, and during the time of war, the Red Cross and the military.

Faberge’s primary source of inspiration came from works of previous centuries. Translucent enameling was a valued technique in the nineteenth century that required several coats of applied enamel and the “firing” of the object in an oven after each coat. However, only a small number of colors were used in the nineteenth century, and so Faberge took it upon himself to experiment and soon came up with over 140 shades. The most prized of these was oyster enamel which varied in color depending on the light.

Materials used by Faberge included metals – silver, gold, copper, nickel, palladium – that were combined in varying proportions to produce different colors. Another technique used by eighteenth century French goldsmiths and again Faberge involve a simple tinting of the completed work using stones and enamel.

Another technique used by Faberge included guilloche, a surface treatment that could make waves and striations in the design and could be done by machine or by hand. Faberge used natural stones often found in abundance in the area. These included jasper, bowenite, rhodonite, rock crystal, agate, aventurine quartz, lapis lazuli, and jade (nephrite mostly although he would sometimes use jadeite). Precious stones including sapphires, rubies and emeralds were used only for decoration, and when used they were en cabochon (round cut). Diamonds were typically rose-cut. Semi-precious stones including moonstones, garnets, olivines, and Mecca stones were used more often en cabochon.

Fifty six Imperial eggs were made, forty-four of which have been located today and another two that are known to have been photographed. Another twelve Easter eggs were commissioned by Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch, a Siberean gold mine owner. However, the Imperial Easter egg collection commissioned by the last of the Russian Czars is the most celebrated.

Explanation of Markings

Markings of the eggs included the stamp of the supervising goldsmith. Before 1903, that would be Michael Perchin (MP note: the “P” is the Russian “P”, which looks like two vertical lines joined together at the top, like the letter pi. ) for the Faberge eggs. After 1903, it would be Henrik Wigstrom (HW). Also there would be Russian assay marks. These would show the purity of the precious metal. Metal purity was measured in zolotniks. About 4 zolotniks equals one karat, so 14 karat gold= 56 zolotniks and 18 karat gold= 72 zolotinks. Sterling silver (.925 fine) would be 91 zolotniks. There would also be a stamp of the city or region of origin. For St. Petersburg, the symbol was crossed anchors and for Moscow, St. George and the Dragon. In 1896, Czar Nicholas II ‘s reign saw a shift from localized marks to a national provenance mark, a woman wearing a kokoshnik.

 

Coronation Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 5 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Length of coach: 3-11/16 inches
Date: 1897

DESCRIPTION

This egg is the most popular of all the Faberge eggs. The surface is enamelled translucent yellow applied to a golden field of starbursts. The egg is trellised with bands of laurel wrought from gold. Opaque, black-enamelled Imperial eagles appear at each trellis intersection. Each eagle carries a small diamond on its chest. The surprise in this egg is the miniature coronation coach. The accurate and highly-detailed coach took 15 months to fabricate. Red lacquer and upholstery of the original coach was recreated using red enamel and the blues of the interior were also fauthfully reproduced in enamels. The gilt coach frame was reproduced in gold, the iron wheel rims in platinum, and glass windows in etched rock crystal. The coach is surmounted by an Imperial crown with rose diamonds.

Czarevich Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 4 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1912

DESCRIPTION

This Louis XV style egg was fashioned in lapis lazuli and ornamented with chased gold. It was topped with a tabletop diamond showing the initials of the Czarina, the Imperial crown, and the year (1912). The bottom is set with a large diamond. The surprise inside ia a double-headed Imperial eagle, covered front and back with diamonds, with a miniature enamelled protrait of the Czarevich Alexei on the eagle’s chest.

 

Danish Palaces Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 4 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1891

DESCRIPTION

Covered in translucent pink enamel, this egg is topped by a star sapphire and mounted with borders of gold leaf, diamonds, and emeralds. Inside was the surprise, a screen of miniature portraits by Krijitsky, dated 1891, depicting palaces and houses the Czarina lived in while she was a Danish princess (before she married Alexander III). The first and last miniatures are of yachts.

Lilies of the Valley Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 5-5/16 inches, 7-7/8 inches when open
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1898

DESCRIPTION

One of only two eggs executed in the Art Nouveau style, this golden egg is covered by a multitude of pearls and is covered with pale pink enamel. The eggs is supported by cabriole legs of matte green-gold leaves with rose diamond dewdrops. The gold-stemmed lilies of the valley have green enamelled leaves and pearl flowers. The egg is surmounted by an Imperial crown of rose diamonds and cabachon rubies. A pearl knob, when twisted, reveals the surprise of this egg: portrait minatures of Czar Nicholas II and his two oldest daughters: Olga and Tatiana. The portraits are raised by a geared mechanism inside the egg and causes the portraits to spread fan-like once they have emerged from the egg. The portraits are framed in rose diamonds and backed with gold panels engraved with the presentation date: April 5, 1898.

Gold Pelican Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 4-1/8 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1897

DESCRIPTION

The egg is made of gold and the ornaments are engraved. This is one of the few eggs that is not enamelled over most of its surface. Surmounting the egg is an enamelled, diamond-studded pelican feeding her young, an emblem of motherhood. The surprise is that the egg, when taken from its stand, can be opened up to display a screen of miniatures on ivory by Zehngraf. The miniatures portrayed the Institutions of the Empress Marie.

 

 

 

 

Peter the Great Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 4 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1903

DESCRIPTION

Serving a dual role, this egg also marked the bicentennial of the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703. Executed in gold in the extravagant rococo style, the curves are set with diamonds and rubies. The bulrushes are chased green gold. The spikyheads are set with square rubies. The surprise is that when the egg is opened, a mechanism within raises a minaiture model in gold of Peter teh Great’s monument on the Neva, resting on a base of sapphire.

 

 

 

  Renaissance Egg

STATISTICS

Length: 5-1/4 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), FABERGE, crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1894

DESCRIPTION

Inspired by a jeweled casket in Dresden, Germany (in the Grunes Gewolbe Museum), this piece is richly decorated with colorful stones. The name for the egg comes from the source of its inspiration, as well as the Renaissance-style enamelled foliate motifs. The egg is made of milky chalcedony and trellised with opaque white enamel gold bands. At each trellis intersection there is a quatrefoil of diamonds with a ruby center. The egg is bisected by a red enamelled gold band. Under the bisecting band and around the red enamelled top, the Renaissance-style motifs, set with diamonds and cabochon rubies, are placed. The top has the date, 1894, set in rose diamonds. The egg, last of the eggs for Czar Alexander III, rests on a golden base with enamelled red and green flowers and palmettes against a white background. The had two chased gold lion masks, with loop handles in their mouths. The surprise that came in this egg has been lost and is unknown.

Resurrection Egg

STATISTICS

Height: 3-7/8 inches
Markings: MP (Michael Perchin), crossed anchors, 56
Date: 1887

DESCRIPTION

The clear rock crystal egg rests on a fluted quatrefoil base that is colorfully enamelled in a Renaissance-inspired design of translucent green, red, and blue arabesques between bands of opaque white enamel dotted with red enamel. The base features four pearls and panels of rose diamonds and eight brilliant-cut diamonds. The base supports a large pearl which is connected to the crystal egg with gold mounts. The egg itself is banded with gold and diamonds. The resurrection group featured inside is Christ rising from the tomb, flanked by two angels. The figures are enamelled in opaque colors quite naturistically. This was only the second egg of the Imperial egg series. it had no surprise within. It is also the only Imperial Faberge egg with a direct reference to the Easter holiday it was created to observe.

Система Orphus Do you see a mistake in the text? Highlight it and click: Ctrl + Enter
Did you enjoy this article? Consider helping us!
Pravmir depends on your donations:
the more you give, the more we can do.
Other amount
Paypal.com
20 $
Paypal.com
50 $
Paypal.com
100 $
Paypal.com
Dear Friends,

Our website exists owing to your generous assistance, thanks to the funds donated by our beloved readers.

Please assist us in the continuation of our work.