It is a long tradition to eat eggs with Eastern, to celebrate the start of Spring. But the tradition in Russia to decorate chicken eggs gets out of hand. The result of the wish of the Russian Tsar to give his wife an Easter present, made by Fabergé, turns out to become a very extraordinary tradition. Which results in the most famous and expensive eggs in the world.
Eggs are the symbol of new life, that is growing every spring and a symbol of fertility. In the Western world, we decorate eggs and hide them for the children. And with Eastern, we all look for those hidden eggs and hope we find them all. In Russia, they give each other presents with Eastern (a very important day in the Russian Orthodox Church). And a long time according to the tradition you get beautifully decorated chicken eggs at Eastern. At that time they are the most famous and expensive eggs in the world.
What to give the Tsarina for Eastern?
The Russian Tsar Alexander III was thinking in 1884 about an Easter present for his wife Maria Fjodorovna. And he thinks very hard because Maria Fjodorovna owns a very large jewel box. That is full of the most expensive pieces of jewelry decorated with diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds. And what to give a woman that already has everything?
He comes up with a great idea and he orders the famous jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé to make an egg, decorated with precious metals. Fabergé can use his own imagination, but it has to be exclusive, exquisite, and more than beautiful. The price is not important. Fabergé and his team work a year on this order and with Eastern 1885 he presents the Tsar the ‘First Hen Egg’. This is the first example of the most famous and expensive eggs in the world
This is a completely golden egg, with an email layer on the outside. You can break this egg into two parts and the egg yolk was made from polished gold. The egg yolk can be opened too and inside is a little hen or chicken, made of gold and the eyes of the hen are made of rubies. His wife Maria Fjodorovna loves her present. Not only because of the value but most of it because of the idea and the touching idea behind this egg.
And the egg present became a tradition
Tsar Alexander loves the outcome. And with the knowledge that for the coming years he knows what to give his wife for Eastern. No worries anymore, just give an order. And Fabergé has one year to come up with another completely different egg. For this reason, Fabergé becomes the purveyor of the royal household.
Fabergé can make what he wants except that it has to be the shape of an egg, a unique egg, and an expensive one. The Tsar does not know what Fabergé comes up with at the next Eastern. And when he asks Fabergé about it, he always answers him ‘his majesty will be pleased’. A little bit dangerous, because the Russian tsars in those days are very fast in killing or imprisoning people that do something they don’t like. But Fabergé is self-confident and knows that at least the Tsarina loves his eggs.
The son continues the tradition of the Easter Eggs
When Alexander III dies in 1894 the new tsar has the same problem as his father: ‘what to give his wife Alexandra Fjodorovna with Eastern’. So he continues the tradition his father started, but he does not order one, but two eggs. One egg for his wife and the other one for his mother. Fabergé gets busy and makes every year two beautiful Eastern. Except in 1904 and 1905 due to the Russian-Japanese War.
Peter Carl Fabergé and his team make a total of 52 eggs between 1885 and 1917. And all the eggs are different, all decorated with gold and precious gemstones and all are very expensive. The tradition of making these beautiful Easter eggs stop in 1917 when Russian soldiers kill the Tsar and his whole family in the Russian Revolution.
After the Russian Revolution, the jewelry and also eggs are stolen or taken into safety and they are secretly transported to other parts of the world. Ten eggs get lost, sixteen eggs are owned by very rich private collectors and Queen Elisabeth II of the United Kingdom owns five of them. Maybe she gets hold of them because there is a relationship between the English and Russian royalty. Anyway, the other eggs are in museums all over the world. And they are very well protected because they are very expensive, sometimes millions and millions of dollars.
We have found a missing egg!
Once upon a time… there is an American scrap dealer who finds a nice little golden egg at an antique auction. That dealer is an expert in wealing and dealing, so he buys the golden egg for about $14.000. He wants to sell it again to a jeweler who can melt the egg and he wants to earn $ 500 with the deal. But he isn’t lucky and he can not find a buyer for the egg.
He feels stupid since he made the wrong decision buying that golden egg for too much money. The egg is small and does not weigh much and inside is a watch, that is still working. The egg is decorated with a garland and in between, there are blue stones. And it is a bit dusty from standing years and years near the sink in a kitchen in the Midwest of the USA. But it is the most famous and expensive eggs in the world.
The scrap dealer starts to search for the history of the egg on Google in 2012. And he gets nearly a heart attack when he finds out that this tiny egg was one of the missing Fabergé eggs, made between 1885 and 1917. And that a famous watchmaker Vacheron Constantin is the designer of the watch. The scrap dealer makes some pictures and sends them to the director of a great London antique store owner, he finds in a newspaper article, also on Google.
The expert travels immediately to the USA because he wants to see this gem for himself. He discovers that this is the third imperial egg, also called the ‘Blue Serpent Clock Egg’. And the value of this egg is more than 1 million dollars. Not only because of the gold and the gemstones but also because of the craftsmanship and the unique design.
The most famous & expensive eggs in the world!
He tells the scrap dealer that this Fabergé egg is made in 1887 and is a present for tsarina Maria Fjodorovna. It is exhibited in Sint Petersburg in 1902, but after the Russian Revolution, the eggs are sold by the Soviets. As a result, nobody knows what happens after that. After some digging, he finds out that someone sells this egg 1964 in New York for 1500 dollars and that nobody recognizes it as a Favergé egg.
The antique shop owner sells the ‘Blue Serpent Clock Egg’ in 2012 and the antique shop owner does not say the price nor the new owner. But it is an enormous amount of money, app. 20 million dollars. To compare with the price for nine Fabergé eggs that a Russian rich man Viktor Vekselberg bought from an American family for between 80 and 120 million dollars! Knowing that the price will go up and up and up.
I hope you have a great Easter and when you by accident come along one of the missing Fabergé Eggs, pls let me know. I would love to see one with my own eyes.
Fabergé the jewelry designer
Fabergé is not only the man who designed and made the Romanov Easter Eggs. He is a world-famous jewelry designer too. And it took quite an effort to get so close to the Russian Tsar, close enough to get the order to make jewelry for the Russian family.
His family originated from France, but as a Huguenot family, they had to flee. They ended up in St. Petersburg, with their names changed many times. The last name they used is Fabergé. That is a name with a French sound. Important since the official language in the Russian court was French, and it was very chic to have a personal jeweler with a French name was the idea. And the Russians loved French-orientated stuff.
The father Gustav Faberge (at that time without the é at the end) opened in 1842 a jeweler shop in St. Petersburg, somewhere in a basement. The shop was called Fabergé. He married and got a son called Carl. And that is the famous jewelry designer and the maker of the Eastern eggs.
He was a talented designer and loved to use a lot of (expensive) gemstones. No problem, since the budget of the Russian Tsar seemed endless. First, Carl Fabergé was ordered to repair and restore items from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
But then he was invited to an exhibition in Moskow and he exhibited a replica of a gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure (4th century BC), from the Hermitage Museum. Tsar Alexander III looked at the replica and knew the original and said that he could not see the difference.
That moment the career of Carl Fabergé got an enormous boost since that Tsar ordered that items made of the Fabergé House should be exhibited in the Hermitage Museum as an example of excellent Russian craftmanship. In 1885 Fabergé got the title and the job ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’, and his business started to bloom.
The Fabergé business
Carl Fabergé did not only made the Eastern Eggs every year for the Tsar and produced stunning royal jewelry for the rest of the Romanov family. His company produced also ornamental objects and other jewelry. Not necessarily made by Carl himself, but always checked by him, whether the quality was up to Fabergé standards.
The Fabergé company became the largest jewelry company in Russia with more than 500 designers and talented people who made the jewelry. The firm expanded to Moskow, Odesa, Kiev, and London, and later on to the Far East.
The Russian Revolution
In 1918, at the start of the Russian Revolution, the jewelry House of Fabergé was nationalized by the Bolsheviks. Luckily Carl could flee to Riga, but when a revolution started there, he had to flee again, but now to Germany. His sons were not that lucky and got imprisoned. One of them, Agathon, was released and forced to value the jewelry taken by the Tsar family, wealthy nobles and the Fabergé House.
A lot of noble families fled to Europe and took their jewelry with them. The Tsar family tried to flee too, with a lot of their precious jewelry sewed into their clothes but they got caught due to treason and executed. Although the Bolsheviks found a lot of jewelry, a lot of this Russian treasure turned up in Europe, where the prices for this type of jewelry dropped, because of the large offer.
The Russian Revolution resulted in the start of the Soviet Union, which lasted until 1991. After that time not a rich royal family collected an enormous amount of precious jewelry, but the rich oligarchs and friends of the regime followed in their footsteps. Russian collectors tried to buy as much Fabergé jewelry as they could on auctions, and bring them back to Russia.
The result was that the prices of Fabergé jewelry that dropped dramatically after 1918 are rising at an enormous speed. For instance, in 2007 the Rothschild Fabergé Easter Egg was auctioned in London for nearly 9 million pounds. And that was the highest ever (until now) price paid for a Russian piece of jewelry.
Looking at those beautiful Easter eggs do you wonder what gemstones he used? Or are you interested to know more about these beauties?
FlorenceJewelshop published a practical PDF with a lot of information and fun facts about the birthstones and a lot of well-known gemstones. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
Hug Florence from FlorenceJewelshop