The name Carl Faberge is associated with the House of Faberge, a jewellery firm established in 1842 in St. Petersburg, Russia. They are most famous for their jewelled egg charms that they created for the Russian Imperial family.
The tradition of the Faberge egg stems from the Orthodox Easter tradition of giving coloured eggs as gifts. The first Faberge egg charm was gifted to the wife of the Czar Alexander III, Czarina Maria as a gift symbolising life, rebirth and love. The Czarina liked the gift so much that Faberge was commissioned to create a new Easter egg each year of the Czar’s reign. The tradition carried on even after the Czar died, and his son Nicholas II took the throne. In total Faberge designed around fifty-six different eggs for the Imperial family.
The eggs had a beautifully designed “shell” which opened up to reveal a surprise, and each year the surprise would be different. These projects became top priority for the company and always took up to a year to complete.
These eggs were luxurious not only because of their intended clientele, but also due to their intricate craftsmanship and use of precious stones. The metals that were used were silver, gold, copper and nickel mixed in various proportions to produce different colours. The beautiful shells were created by using translucent enamelling techniques of the 19th Century and involved applying several coats of enamel with firing in a hot oven between each coat. Another technique used by Faberge was called guilloche which created waved and striated patterns on the surface of the egg. These were done by machine or by hand. The egg would then be decorated using various precious stones including sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds.
Of the original fifty-six Imperial eggs, only forty-four have been found and they are all located in Russia. Some are exhibited in the Kremlin Armoury Museum and others are on loan at various other museums around the globe. Faberge created twelve more eggs for a Russian nobleman at the end of the 19th Century, but they are not as widely celebrated as the original Imperial collection. The Faberge company is still in existence, but now they only produce traditional jewellery and miniature egg pendants.