Treasures of the Czars
A Fabergé egg is any one of the thousands of jeweled eggs made by the House of Fabergé from 1885 to 1917, mostly miniature eggs that were popular gifts at Easter. They were worn on a neck chain either singly or in groups. The first Fabergé egg was crafted for Tsar Alexander III, who decided to give his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, an ‘Easter egg’ in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal. It is believed that the Tsar’s inspiration for the piece was an egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark. The Princess’ egg was an opaque white enameled ‘shell’ which opened to reveal its first surprise, a matte yellow gold yolk; this in turn opened to reveal a multi-colored gold hen; that also opened, containing a minute diamond replica of the Imperial Crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended. Now THAT is glitz.
Each subsequent annual egg became more elaborate, launching the Fabergé egg into a symbol of luxury. ‘Fabergé egg’ typically refers to products made by the company before the 1917 Revolution. Use of the Fabergé name has occasionally been disputed, and the trademark has been sold several times since the Fabergé family left Russia after 1917, so several companies have subsequently retailed egg-related merchandise using the Fabergé name. The trademark is currently owned by Fabergé Limited, which also makes egg-themed jewelry. You may recall the 1983 James Bond movie, Octopussy, where a Fabergé egg was the object of a bidding war between Bond and Kamal Khan. Or 2004′s Ocean’s 12, where Danny Ocean and his crew have to steal the Russian Imperial Coronation egg in order to pay back Tony Benedict from the previous film’s heist.
The most famous eggs produced by the House of Fabergé were the larger ones made for Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia; these are often referred to as the ‘Imperial’ Fabergé eggs. Of the 50 Imperial eggs made, 42 have survived. It is interesting to note the location of the 42 remaining Imperial Fabergé eggs:
10 Kremlin Armoury, Moscow, Russia
9 Viktor Vekselberg collection, Russia (formerly Forbes)
5 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA
3 Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
3 Royal Collection, London, UK
2 Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Foundation, Switzerland
2 Hillwood Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
2 Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
1 Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
1 Albert II of Monaco collection, Monte-Carlo, Monaco