No object is as synonymous with Romanov Russia as a Fabergé imperial Easter egg.
The creative genius behind the iconic jeweled Easter eggs was Peter Carl Fabergé, a third-generation French Huguenot émigré to Russia. Fabergé’s father, Gustav, established the family gold and silver workshop in St. Petersburg in 1842, but it was his 24-year-old son, taking over the business in 1870, who elevated the firm to “The House of Fabergé,” attracting the attention and patronage of the Romanovs, Russian nobility, and the empire’s growing number of wealthy businessmen and industrialists.
Word spread, and the House of Fabergé soon enjoyed the patronage of other European monarchs, including King Edward VII, whose wife Queen Alexandra was an enthusiastic collector of Fabergé bibelots, carved animals and small desk decorations. When Edward and Alexandra’s niece, became engaged to Russia’s Tsarevich Nicholas in 1894, Fabergé received his largest commission ever Hen Egg, Fabergé’s imagination and skill was the collection of Imperial Easter Eggs, which earned him the coveted status of “Goldsmith by Special Appointment to the Imperial Crown.”
In 1885, Fabergé first proposed a design for a jeweled egg to Alexander III as an Easter gift to his wife, the Danish-born Empress Maria. The Tsar agreed, and stipulated that the egg must contain a surprise for his beloved consort.
Fabergé did not disappoint: the first Imperial Easter Egg, the Hen Egg, was based on a bibelot the empress recalled fondly from her childhood. Its relatively plain design most resembles a real egg and belies the precious materials used to create the illusion: gold covered with white enamel, opening to a yellow gold yolk. The “surprise” was a tiny gold hen inside the yolk.
The empress was entranced, and Alexander III promptly put in a standing order for one egg each Easter. But from that time on, the designs and materials were kept strictly under wraps, even from Fabergé’s imperial patron. Any attempts by the tsar to get a hint of the design ahead of Easter were met with Fabergé’s simple assurance that “Your Majesty will be content.”
The tsar was content, and following his death in 1894, his son Nicholas II kept up the Easter tradition, commissioning eggs for both his mother and now Empress Alexandra.imperialIIII
Fabergé and his team of 700 craftsmen were kept busy designing new and more intricate eggs with more amusing and intricate surprises inside.
The imperial Easter eggs often commemorated significant events in the ruler’s reign, such as the gold-encrusted Coronation Egg, presented to Alexandra in 1897, or the famous Trans-Siberian Egg, which featured a detailed map of the railway line on the surface and as the surprise: a miniature, wind-up model of the trans-continental train, complete with every detail, including minuscule signs reading “Ladies Only” and “Gentlemen Only.” When wound up by the accompanying key, the train can still chug along.
The growing imperial family continued to be an inspiration for Fabergé’s designs for the younger Empress. Her five children appear in miniature on the surface of the 1911 Fifteenth Anniversary Egg, along with scenes of Nicholas’s reign. The family’s beloved yacht was rendered in exquisite miniature detail in the 1909 Standart Yacht Egg, encased in a single piece of polished rock crystal, its surface carved to mimic the sea. This is one of the few Imperial Eggs that lies horizontal
The Most Expensive Faberge Egg, The Third Imperial Egg, was made in 1887 and subsequently lost years later until it showed up in a flea market in the United states.
The egg quickly made headlines across the world and was later sold to a private collector for an undisclosed price.
The price was later revealed to be around $33 Million dollars in part due to its little known status in the world of the Faberge collection, making this officially the most expensive egg in the world!