Carl Fabergé 1846-1920



Peter Carl Fabergé is associated with perfect craftsmanship, superior design and fine taste. Fabergé objects continue to be prized by the discerning and are to be found among royal and eminemt private collections as well as world museums. The firm had modest beginnings: in 1842, Gustave Fabergé, of French Huguenot descent opened a silver and jewellery shop in St. Petersburg, which in 1870 was taken over by his 24 year old son, Peter Carl (b. St. Petersburg), who rapidly transformed the small and conventional business into Russia's and one of Europe's most fashionabel house of jewellery. He had a remarkable skill for organisation and at one time employed over 500 artistes and crafsmen. In 1882 he was joined by his younger brother, Agathon from Dresden. Peter Carl acted as the artistic and commercial director, while the technical management was entrusted to his head workmasters, notably Erik Kollin, Michael Perchin, Henrik Wigström, Julius Rappoport and August Holmström who experimented with a rich variety of stones and multi­coloured golds and perfected their enamelling techniques to an unrivalled level.


Fabergé only designed the most important objects himself, such as the Imperial Easter Eggs which Alexander III presented to his Empress and Nicholas II to his mother and Empress. These were made in a variety of stones and metals, which when opened revealed a "surprise", such as a basket of flowers or golden carriage. Fabergé created a total of 54 Imperial Eggs, the first was made in 1884 and in the same year his house was granted a Royal Warrant. Fabergé subsequently supplied royalty from the Far East and Europe as well as Edwardian aristocracy.


Fabergé trained in his home town; his subsequent travels to Western Europe proved an inspiration to a number of the firm's designs. The principle influence was French, the rococo of Louis XV, the more opulent neo-classical elements of Louis XVI and the Empire. Fabergé was also inspired by Far Eastern designs and materials, such as jade. On the other hand the small hardstone peasant types and animals are Russian inspiration, while the novelty objects such as the Imperial Eggs, miniature furniture or flowers in rock-crystal vases were unique inspirations.


The house exhibited at a number of international exhibitions, frequently winning award. At their first show, the Pan-Russian Exhibition, 1882 they won a Gold Medal and again at Nuremburg in 1885 The Imperial Eggs were shown for the frist time in 1900 at the Paris Exposition Universelle, Fabergé was subsequently decorated with the Legion d'Honneur. Fabergé's success led to business expansion, branches were opened in Moscow (from 1887), Odessa (1890-1918), Kieve (1905-10) and London (1903-15) The Bolshovic Revolution brought an end to the Faberge reign, the company was nationalised, the Imperial collection sold, Faberge fled the City and died in exile in Lausanne. But Fabergé objects continue to be revered; every object to leave his workshop was of breathtaking quality and as his biographer, Kenneth Snowman wrote, "it may be claimed that  any object which is not immaculately made and highly finished in every detail cannot be by Fabergé at all".


Copyright by Richard Redding Ltd.