The preeminent, iconic Eastern jeweler who left a global mark in the world of antique jewelry, Fabergé were remarkably unique in the way they left their mark, as they made their name crafting jewels that were truly, as the saying goes, "Fit for a king."
In 1842, Gustav Faberge of Baltic Germany opened Fabergé Jewelry in St. Petersburg, Russia. As the Russian nobility at the time fawned over French culture (French was the official language of the Russian Royal Court), Gustav wisely added the famous “accented é” in place of the traditional spelling, as to make the jeweler more marketable. The company grew slowly but surely until son Carl Faberge got involved in his father’s business, as Tsar Alexander III took a liking to a specific treasure from Carl’s 1885 exhibition: a replica of the 4th-Century BC gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure, regarded as a timeless Russian artefact. Tsar Alexander II claimed he could not distinguish the Fabergé replica from the original, and was so impressed he commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter Egg for his wife– thus a legend was born.
Faberge’s work for the Tsar was what made Fabergé synonymous with royalty and fine jewelry– the first of the famed “Fabergé Eggs”. Tsar Alexander III continued this tradition annually, commissioning a total of 69 Fabergé Eggs– 50 of which were commissioned for the Russian crown. The Tsar was in such awe at the superior craftsmanship of the eponymously-named jeweler that not even he knew what design the egg would form: the only stipulation was that each one should contain a pleasant surprise.
Other classic Fabergé eggs produced include the “Rosebud”, commissioned for Nicolas II and gifted to his wife in 1895, and the “Moscow Kremlin Egg”, commissioned in 1906 and easily the largest– if not also the most detailed– of the iconic Fabergé Eggs. Fabergé Eggs are known as the crown jewels of the Russian monarchy and maintain superlative value to this day, as most of the surviving eggs are in the possession of museums or private collectors. Very few are sold at market, as they are the quintessential collectors item, though a couple of Fabergé Eggs have made the rounds in recent history. The “Third Imperial Egg” of 1887, for instance, resurfaced at a USA flea market in the 2000’s and upon authentication, sold for an undisclosed amount in 2014, though the sale price is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The last Fabergé Egg to sell publicly was in 2007 at auction, where the “Rothschild Egg” of 1902 sold for $18 million USD plus commission– a now-record (public) sale price that surpassed the $9.6 million sale of the 1913 Winter Egg in 2002.
While not as ubiquitous as aforementioned jewelry brands of antique jewelry lore, “Fabergé” maintains a stellar reputation for their culturally-significant design, heritage, and distinct craftsmanship. Fabergé has not expanded deeply into retail, as other heritage brands have, though auctions and museums often exhibit classical Fabergé crafts and jewels, solidifying its place in the mythos of jewelry history, legacy and tradition.