Carl Faberge, was without doubt the most famous court jeweller in history and although he is often referred to as the “Cellini of the North” he is considered by a great many to have been, the goldsmith, ‘par excellence’. It would be impossible to say how many royal commissions he received but he was the court jeweller to the Tsars Alexander III and Nikolai II.
The Italian goldsmith and sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571 is considered to have been the greatest goldsmith of the Italian Renaissance.
Faberge was more than just an ‘artist’ and one of his additional gifts was the ability to be able to create in his clients the desire for something which at that time existed only in his imagination.
After pleasing Emperor Alexander III with what at first appeared to be an ordinary Easter egg but which in fact contained many beautiful works of art created from gold and platinum, precious gems and enamel he received a commission to provide a similar but different egg every Easter with the only stipulation being that the egg must contain a surprise. There are in existence today forty nine different eggs which bear testament to both the Royal Family’s satisfaction with the eggs and to Faberge’s genius for invention.
It would seem that what caused Faberge to initially create his original works was his belief that it would be pointless to present Robert Greville with a ruby, a Rothschild with a diamond or a Queen with a string of pearls since it would be like giving ice to the proverbial Eskimos.
One could say that Faberge’s crowning moment was at the “Exposition Internationale Universelle” in Paris in 1900 where he was named ‘Master’ by the Goldsmiths of France’. That this happened in the capital of the country from which his persecuted ancestors had fled two hundred and fifteen years before must have been sweetness itself.
It was never intended that Faberge’s creations would ever leave Russia but during the famine of 1921 a wealthy young American physician by the name of Armand Hammer went to Russia as a volunteer relief worker and subsequently exported the greatest private collection of Faberge pieces in existence today.
The Faberge collection which included eleven of Faberge’s priceless Imperial Easter Eggs was found along with the Crown Jewels after the Imperial Palaces fell into the hands of the government and Dr. Hammer was able to negotiate the purchase of a great part of the collection including some of the most important pieces.
Although Faberge is most famous for his eggs he also had an extremely important effect on two separate arts, enamelling on gold and silver and stone cutting both of which enjoyed a form of renaissance for which he was mostly responsible.
Also worth pursing, if not purchasing, are his cigarette cases, flowers cut in both precious and semi-precious stones and his animals some of which seem almost alive and all of which are both exquisitely beautiful and totally memorable.