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House of Fabergé
House of Fabergé

In 1842, Gustav Faberge founded the jewelry firm House of Fabergé in St. Petersburg, capitalizing on Russian Francophilia by using the accented name "Fabergé". Gustav was followed by his son Peter Carl Fabergé, until the firm was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. The firm has been famous for designing elaborate jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs for the Russian Tsars and a range of other work of high quality and intricate details. 

In 1885, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna. Its "shell" is enameled on gold to represent a normal hen’s egg. This pulls apart to reveal a gold yolk, which in turn opens to produce a gold chicken that also opens to reveal a replica of the Imperial Crown from which a miniature ruby egg was suspended. 

The tradition of the Tsar giving his Empress a surprise Easter egg by Carl Fabergé continued. From 1887, it appears that Carl Fabergé was given complete freedom as to the design of the Imperial Easter eggs as they became more elaborate. According to the Fabergé Family tradition, not even the Tsar knew what egg form they would take: the only stipulation was that each one should contain a surprise. The House of Fabergé completed 50 Imperial eggs for Alexander III to present to his Empress and for Nicholas II to present to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna and his wife the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna. Of these, 43 are known to have survived.

Amongst Fabergé’s more popular creations were the miniature hardstone carvings of people, animals and flowers carved from semi-precious or hardstones and embellished with precious metals and stones. The most common animal carvings were elephants and pigs but included custom made miniatures of pets of the British Royal family and other notables. The flower sculptures were complete figural tableaus, which included small vases in which carved flowers were permanently set, the vase and "water" were done in clear quartz and the flowers in various hardstones and enamel. The figures were typically only a few inches long or wide, with some larger and more rare figurines reaching 6 - 7 inches tall, and were collected throughout the world; the British Royal family has over 250 items in the Royal Collection. The pieces were even admired by Fabergé's competitor Cartier, who in 1910 purchased a pink jade pig and an agate fox with cabochon ruby eyes set in gold.

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