Created by the House of Fabergé in St. Petersburg between 1885 and 1917, with virtually all creations under the supervision of Peter Carl Fabergé, Fabergé eggs are widely known as decadent jewelled eggs.
Around 57 are still around today, with the most famous Fabergé eggs being the 50 Imperial designs which were made for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II as Easter gifts. Only 43 of these Imperial designs still exist, although there are photographs of a further 3 of the missing 7. The other Fabergé Egg collections were made for other private clients, but were nowhere near as ornate and were not unique designs, being copies of other eggs.
The First Hen Fabergé Egg
The very first Fabergé egg can be dated back to 1855, when award winning master goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé was employed by the Russian Tsar Alexander III. Alexander wanted a gift made for his wife Empress Maria Feodorovna for Easter – an important celebration on the Russian-Orthodox ecclesiastical calendar.
Fabergé, who had been running the House of Fabergé since inheriting it from his father in 1872, was well known for his skill and love of crafting fine jewellery and objects as well as assisting restorations for the Hermitage Museum.
The first Fabergé egg was based on the 18th century Saxon Royal Egg, which Fabergé had seen in Dresden at the Green Vault museum. This egg was gold in colour encasing a golden hen, a gold crown and a ring. The Fabergé version had a white enamel outer, opening to a gold yolk which housed a small golden hen – which in turn opened to reveal a pendant. This final “surprise” was a direct request from Tsar Alexander III as a secret gift for Maria and became a precedent that followed in subsequent eggs. The Tsar wanted his wife to be surprised with the inclusion of a gift within the egg, however after this, Fabergé was given the freedom to create whatever he desired as long as it had some bearing on the Russian family. He was also appointed as the “goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”, a great accolade for both Peter Carl Fabergé and the House of Fabergé as a business.
Imperial Easter Fabergé Eggs
In the following years, Fabergé would create and bring to life his own designs and work as the lead on the production of the Imperial Easter Fabergé eggs. 50 known Imperial eggs were created over a period spanning 3 decades up till Tsar Alexander III’s death in 1894. His son, Tsar Nicholas II, kept the Fabergé Easter egg tradition alive but upped the ante, commissioning Fabergé to create not one but two eggs per year; one which he gifted to his mother and the other for his wife Alexandra. These were in addition to the other Fabergé egg collections being commissioned, including the
The various eggs were all unique, made from a range of materials and in a number of different designs, featuring tri coloured gold &crystal and beset with gems and stones like diamonds, pearls and emeralds. The size differed also, with some eggs coming in at just under three inches and some being over five inches tall. However, a common misconception is that all the eggs opened to include a ‘surprise’ which actually wasn’t the case.
The look and materials used wasn’t the only thing that Fabergé needed to consider – the eggs needed to include a personal touch for the royal family and as such, Fabergé studied, developed and came up with ideas that were meaningful and special. This work was often time heavy and painstaking for the expert miniaturists that were tasked with painting tiny portraits on the ivory. One of the best kept secrets was the theme of the next egg with not even the Tsar himself being informed, adding to the excitement when the time for the grand unwrapping occurred.
The Coronation Egg
The most iconic Imperial Fabergé egg of all time is arguably the Coronation Egg, dated to 1897 which was designed to commemorate Alexandra’s imperial coronation. This is currently part of the collection held at the Fabergé Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia and is shown alongside the first Hen egg, the Renaissance, the Rosebud, Lillies of the Valley, the Cockerel, the Fifteenth Anniversary, the Bay Tree and the Order of St. George eggs.
The Coronation Egg was made to commemorate the Tsarina Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, Tsar Nicolas II’s wife, and inside it’s gold exterior nestled a precise replica of the Imperial coach that she rode in to her coronation at the Uspensky Cathedral in May 1896. The egg colours, gold with lime yellow enamel, are to represent to robe she wore at her coronation, with the pattern picked out in greenish gold and enamelled opaque black drawn from the same robe.
The egg and the replica coach are in good condition, but the original stand has been lost.