A Gem of a Person – Peter Carl Fabergé
A jeweler par excellence, court jeweler of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia; Peter Carl Faberge might not be as well known as a person today, but the brand name ‘Faberge’ is popular the world over. The Faberge line of jewelry, wrist watches and timepieces and of course the Easter eggs have made the name Faberge haloed in fashion circles. The man behind the brand, Peter Carl Faberge, a renowned jeweler and the court jeweler in the court of Romanav, the Russian Imperial family, became famous for the Easter egg he made for the Tsars.
- 1846 : Born on May 30th in St. Petersburg
- 1870 : Joined father’s jewelry business
- 1882 : Won gold medal at the Pan – Russian exhibition held in Moscow
- 1885 : Appointed as the court jeweler of the Romanov Dynasty.
- 1885 : Made his first Easter egg which contained a jeweled hen
- 1917 : Fled to Switzerland after the October Revolution
- 1920 : Died in exile on September 24th
His early years
A renowned jeweler, designer and goldsmith, Faberge was born on May 30th in the Russian town of St. Petersburg to Gustav Petrowitch and Charlotte Faberge. His father was a jeweler and his mother was the daughter of a Danish painter. As per tradition it was assumed that, being the elder son, Faberge would follow the footsteps of his father and become a jeweler too. He began his early schooling at St. Anne’s Gymnasium, a German school in St. Petersburg. At the age of 18 he was sent to Europe to apprentice with world famous jewelers and Goldsmiths in Frankfurt, London, Paris, and Italy. After receiving training, Faberge returned to St. Petersburg and took over his father’s business at the age of 34.Two years later he married Augusta Julia Jacobs and in the course of time they had four sons, Eugene, Agathon, Alexander, and Nicolas.
The Russian Connection
Peter Carl Fabergé was now a busy family man creating exclusive jewelry and thus the brand name Faberge was born. He was awarded gold medal at the Moscow Pan Russian Exhibition and soon caught the attention of Alexander III, the Tsar of Russia, who was a great patron of the arts. This was the impetus that singled out Faberge from hundreds of other jewelers by the Tsar. Alexander III “declared him as the re inventor of Russian Art” (Imperial Court Inc. website). Brooches, Cigarette cases, necklaces and miniature items were some of the exquisite pieces he created for the Tsar’s family members and friends. However his greatest and most well known achievement was the creation of the Easter eggs for which he is renowned, which were created for the Russian Imperial Family between 1885 and 1916. His first Easter egg was a classic and beautiful piece of art which was made at the behest of the Tsar, Alexander III who wanted to present it to his wife, Empress Marie Fedeorovna. Known as the Hen Egg, the first ever Imperial Easter egg was made of gold with an opaque, white enameled shell which opened to reveal an egg yolk. Inside the egg yolk was encased a beautiful and ornate hen which contained a diamond replica of the Imperial Throne. With this began the tradition of the yearly Easter egg which continued for 32 years until 1917 during which time he produced the most captivating and beautifully crafted eggs. His fame continued to grow and in 1897 he was appointed the court goldsmith of Sweden and Norway. He also began to widen his horizons and introduced his jewelry at the World’s fair in Paris. Von Solodkoff, who has done extensive research on Faberge was quite impressed by his skill and wrote “He re-introduced color to jewelry-rubies, sapphires, emeralds, semiprecious stones, enamel-and revived the use of rose-cut diamonds. New motifs, such as ice and frost crystals, were devised.”
Peter Carl Fabergé did not limit himself to the Easter eggs. He also made a number of objects that were elegantly crafted and the same time of practical use. Cigarette cases, pen stands, photo frames, clocks, table lighters and ashtrays were some of his creations for which he was famous for. The demand for his creations grew, so he had to employ highly capable master craftsmen, most of whom were foreigners, to help him to create his designs. A visionary, he would produce sketches and drawings which would be crafted subsequently by these master craftsmen. However problems began to arise due to the turmoil in Russia and with the onset of World War I. Being an ardent loyal to the Imperial family he converted some of his shops in Moscow into factories to make ammunition. With the Russian Revolution of 1917, however, his good times ran out and the Tsars had to abdicate the throne. All the Tsars were later executed, forcing him to close shop and flee Russia along with his master craftsmen. He first fled to Germany and then in 1920 went to Switzerland where he fell seriously ill. He finally passed away in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 24th 1920 at the age of 74, bringing an end to a golden era.
Brand Faberge today
Although two of Faberge’s sons, Alexander and Eugene, did try to continue in the footsteps of their father, they did not meet with the same kind of success. His designs and brand name were unsuccessfully attempted to be copied by other businessmen, but interest in the brand name Faberge was renewed only after an exhibit in London in 1977 followed by similar exhibitions in Helenski, New York, London and Munich. In 1989, a master craftsman, Victor Mayer, took on the challenge to revive and continue the name of Faberge and in 1990, presented a new collection in Munich. In 1996, on the 150th birth anniversary of Faberge, new collections were presented to the public in New York. Victor Mayer has also produced licensed and authenticated Faberge jewels, and to this day has the sole rights to produce Faberge wristwatches. The year 2009 saw the launch of the Faberge high end jewelry collection and on July 6th 2011, the company launched a series of Faberge egg pendants which were supposed to have been crafted by Faberge himself during the year 1917.
Today, with Katharina Flohr as the Creative Head and Managing Director, the Faberge brand is building a new identity for itself with Faberge’s great granddaughters, Tatiana and Sarah Faberge providing expert guidance. According to Von Solodkoff his place in art history “is that of an exceptionally creative artist-jeweler with outstanding entrepreneurial skill.”