No – Not Jewellery, Timepieces or Treasures!
I’m talking EGGS! Yes those beautiful, wonderful, skilfully crafted, small & not so small, Fabergé Eggs. These artful creations have been delighting the hearts of Tzar’s, Emperor’s, Kings, Queens and collectors around the world for centuries.
And seeing I’m a writer of History I love researching interesting facts. My first introduction to these gloriously designed, painted and crafted eggs, was about 30 years ago, when I was living in Western Australia. Visiting a friend one day I saw one in her glass case. It was larger than a hen’s egg so probably duck egg. On the front of it was painted a tiny picture of her deceased dog. When she told me she had bought it from WA, I had to know where and if we could see them. We phoned and made plans to go and visit the lady.
What I found blew me away. Now all these years on I wish I had taken photos. There were decorated eggs of all sizes and for all purposes. Some opened with little hinges, some were cut away to display the inside & others left whole. The larger Ostrich/ Emu eggs were absolutely wonderful.
The delicate braids, painted artwork and finish is what impressed me most. All eggs sit on a stand or a leg-base. The artist took the time to tell to tell us how she prepared them, showing us some of the eggs already at several steps of the process. Understandably, the technique is long and tiresome, and one would have to have a castle full of patience – although I’m sure, the completed item is forever rewarding for the artisans. And as an artist, I know the costs of the creator’s talent can’t always be measured dollars – nor is it calculated in the time spent – often it’s so much more.
The Eggs to buy were not cheap- according to the standards of the day – but they were worth every penny. To this day I wish I could have found the money to purchase at least a small one, but alas the budget didn’t spread that far back then. For us it was comparable to more than a week of groceries.
So naturally, me being me, after seeing the eggs for myself, I had the desire to follow my creative spark and decided I’d make one or two, or half a dozen. I found a book at the library, read up on technique, tools etc, copied down vital points on construction (the artwork and design I had under control) … and now 30 years later, I ashamedly say – I never did get around to making even one! But I am still in awe of the craft and those delicate creations.
I copied these pictures of some of the original Imperial eggs off the internet. I am really taken with the ones that have designs actually carved into the surface of the egg’s shell. As Recently as 2011, some of the missing Fabergé Imperial Eggs were still being found. Lost egg found after 112 years. This is a picture of the 3rd Imperial Egg. The Hen Egg. There are 5 still missing, presumed lost after the revolution. Perhaps they are in secret private collections, or are they stored away unknowingly in a shed somewhere around the world.
HISTORY of the FABERGÉ EGGS
The original Jewel Eggs were made by Peter Carl Fabergé and his company from 1885 – 1917. The house of Fabergé made 50 eggs for the Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II, to give to their wives & mothers as the most elaborate & expensive Easter gifts. Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold, its opaque white enamelled ‘shell’ opening to reveal it’s first surprise, a matt yellow gold yoke. This in turn opens to reveal a multicoloured, superbly chased gold hen that also opens. Originally, this contained a minute diamond replica of the Imperial crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended. Unfortunately these last two have been lost.A centuries old tradition of bringing hand coloured eggs to church to be blessed and then presented to friends and family had evolved through the years and , amongst the highest echelons of St Petersburg society, the custom developed of presenting valuably bejewelled Easter gifts. So it was the Tsar Alexander III had the idea of commissioning Faber to create a precious Easter egg as a surprise for the emperors, and thus the first Imperial Easter egg was born.
The Empress’s delight at this intriguing gift with it’s hidden jewelled surprise was the starting point for the yearly Imperial tradition that continued for 32 years until 1917 and produced the most opulent and captivating Ester gifts the world has ever seen. The eggs were private and personal gifts, and the whole spectacular series charted the romantic and tragic story leading up to the end of the mighty Romanov’s.
More images and information on the Fabergé Eggs and the story of Easter, can be found in this book by Suzi Love.