The Exacting Craftsmanship of Faberge's Eggs

by Sister Hilda Kleiman, OSB

In his book Faberge's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire (public library), Toby Faber explains Faberge's impact on Russian culture and the hunt for his Imperial Easter eggs after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

Faberge changed the way Russian society thought about the value of its jewelry and other precious items:

Faberge’s time in Europe and the Hermitage had inspired him; he wanted to make pieces of jewelry that were more than the sum of their parts – to elevate design and craftsmanship above mere materials.  In his own words, much later, “Expensive things interest me little if the value is merely in so many diamonds or pearls.”  In nineteenth century Russia this was a groundbreaking philosophy. Everyone knew the story of how Count Orlov had secured his position at Catherine the Great’s court with the gift to her of a single massive diamond, smuggled from India.  The purchase had bankrupted him, but favors from a grateful empress soon proved it had been a wise investment.  Little had changed since Catherine’s death.  According to an English diplomat, Lord Frederic Hamilton, who spend much of the 1800s in Saint Petersburg, “A stone must be very perfect to satisfy the critical Russian eye, and true to their Oriental blood, the ladies preferred unfaceted rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.”  One of Carl Faberge’s great achievements was that he not only made beautifully designed jewelry, but succeeded in selling it to the Russian aristocracy.  He changed the taste of Saint Petersburg (7).

Karl Gustavovich Faberge - US PD not renewed

The craftsmanship of each item had to meet Faberge's standards:

Most of all, however, there could never be any doubt as to the quality of every item sold.  Despite all the specialization, each piece remained the overall responsibility of a single craftsman.  At 10 A.M. every morning Carl FabergĂ© would start a tour of the workshops.  Occasionally he would examine an object that was nearly finished, put it on an anvil, and smash it with a hammer, adding a rebuke that was all the more telling for the mild manner in which it was delivered: “You can do better.  Start again and do it right” (23).

The logo of Faberge - PD US - not renewed

The Rosebud Egg - CC BY SA 4.0

The Renaissance Egg - CC BY SA 4.0

The Gatchina Palace Egg - CC BY SA 3.0

The Rose Trellis Egg - CC BY  SA 3.0