Peter Carl Faberge: The Man
Peter Carl Fabergé was a gifted entrepreneur who harnessed great talents in producing beautiful and technically superb jewelry and metalwork.
Although he was not active as a jeweler himself, Fabergé directed every aspect of his
firm -- from choosing designers and craftsmen to giving final approval to the finished
works -- to ensure that all commissions were executed perfectly.
Fabergé's great renown is due primarily to the incomparable series of imperial Easter eggs, generally thought to have numbered 56, created between 1884 and 1917.
Ten of these eggs were crafted for Czar Alexander III from 1884 to 1894 as gifts for his wife.
Nicholas II (1894-1918) commissioned 44 eggs for his mother and wife that are all still in existence, as well as two other eggs that are known only from photographs.
One egg made for the year 1917, the year of the October Revolution, has survived.
Peter Carl Fabergé was born in Saint Petersburg in 1846, the first son of established jeweler Gustav Fabergé. At the age of 16, he started working for his father's firm and was admitted to the guild to work independently at the age of 21.
After marrying Augusta Jakobs -- they had four sons, all of whom became designers for the House of Fabergé
-- Carl took over his father's business. In 1882, his younger brother Agathon, who was also trained as a jeweler, joined Carl from Dresden, and it was shortly thereafter that the firm began the period of its most brilliant success.
They gained recognition rapidly, winning the Gold Medal for the 1882 Pan-Russian exhibition, where the wife of Czar Alexander III purchased one of their works.
The imperial warrants of "Supplier to the Imperial Court" and "Appraiser of the Imperial Cabinet" were given to the House of Fabergé in 1885 and 1890 respectively.
Receiving a gold medal from the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900 was the crowning achievement in Fabergé's career, and in that same year, he moved into a new shop in Saint Petersburg.
By 1914 he was employing some 300 craftsmen in addition to the 200 who worked in the Moscow workshop, which had opened in 1887.
The House of Fabergé opened branches in Odessa, London, and Kiev and, by 1908, Carl Fabergé was traveling regularly to Paris, Cannes, Rome, and the Far East to satisfy demand for his sumptuous wares.
In the span of 35 years, from its 1882 Gold Medal to the 1917 Revolution, the House of Fabergé produced some 150,000 objects.
Among Fabergé's artistic achievements was the mastery of various enameling techniques.
Fabergé studied the enameling of 18th-century French art objects in the treasury of the Winter Palace and used this knowledge to surpass all of his competitors in the quality and range of his enamels.
His firm could render more than 140 different shades and introduced many new colors, such as oyster, an iridescent white enamel with pink undertones, similar to a mother-of-pearl, that was among the most highly appreciated.
Fabergé also experimented with gold of different
colors -- yellow, white, green, and red -- again based on techniques borrowed from the 18th century, and invented ways of achieving subtle tones of orange, gray, and blue gold.
The fate of the House of Fabergé was closely tied to that of imperial Russia during the first World War.
Expensive and extravagantly jeweled objects were replaced by much simpler works made of humbler materials; moreover, most of Fabergé's craftsmen were employed making armaments for the army.
After the 1917 October Revolution the Bolshevik takeover and later murder of the imperial family Fabergé fled to Switzerland in 1918, and died there two years later.