Thursday, October 16, 2014

Peter Carl Faberge: One of History's Most Important Jewelers

Equestrian Faberge Egg
Equestrian Egg for Alexander III
Courtesy of Stan Shebb
Peter Carl Faberge, or simply Carl Faberge, is the jeweler behind Faberge eggs. His creations have been highly sought after for more than one hundred years. He crafted many wares, but his eggs were, and remain, his most popular items. They were so popular during his lifetime that the last tsars of Russia purchased at least one a year after Faberge's talent was discovered and before the October Revolution in Russia. At that time, Carl's talents were no longer needed. His royal patrons were dead. 

Peter Carl Faberge was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 30, 1846. His father was a jeweler who had opened a shop in St. Petersburg in 1842. The family was of French descent, but they would find their fortune and fame in Russia. They moved to Dresden, Germany in 1860. At that time, Carl went to school to learn his father's craft. He also did his goldsmith apprenticeship in Germany - at the House of Friedman, to be exact.

Carl Faberge completed his education in 1864, at which time he returned to St. Petersburg and began working in his father's shop. He took over the business in 1872. He spent roughly the first ten years of his career cataloguing the objects in the Russian coffers. He also created pieces of his own, most of them of the style that was popular at the time--nothing like the intricate pieces he began creating in the 1880s. Carl had a younger brother named Agathon who also became a jeweler. He came to work with Carl and the two of them made the business famous.

Agathon and Carl Faberge decided to make pieces that were far more detailed than what was available at the time. When they brought some of these to an exhibition attended by Tsar Alexander III and his wife, their surname became famous. Carl became the jeweler to the tsars in 1885, under Tsar Alexander III. He made (or had his skilled artisans make) one egg for the tsar every year, which Alexander gave to his wife. After Alexander died, his son--Tsar Nicholas II--continued the tradition, but he required two eggs a year. He gave one to his wife and one to his mother. Faberge also made an egg to commemorate the last tsar's coronation. Inside the egg was a small golden replica of the coach Nicholas rode that day.

Carl Faberge's star had risen. He hired talented artisans to handle his commissions and expanded his business beyond Russia. He became Sweden's Court Goldsmith in 1897. In 1910, he got the same position in Russia. Unfortunately, seven years later, the monarchy in Russia was destroyed. Shortly after, many of the Romanovs were murdered. Rather than see if the Bolsheviks would be kind to the man who supplied bejeweled Easter eggs to Russian royal family, Carl went into exile. He died in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 24, 1920.

Today, Carl Faberge's objects are kept in museums and auctioned to wealthy collectors. Some of them are worth millions of dollars. What's more important is their historical significance. Many of these eggs belonged to a family that went from being the most important family in Russia to being slaughtered by angry revolutionaries.


Faberge-Art, retrieved 12/13/10,

The World of Peter Carl Faberge, retrieved 12/13/10

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