Fabergé, A New Recipe by Sarah Fabergé
The name of Fabergé has stayed in people’s minds despite the ups and downs of history. A French name with a Russian soul and an international reputation, the company is primarily remembered for the Imperial Eggs created for members of the Russian Royal Family, the Romanovs whose patronage made the name of this company popular with Royal families throughout Europe and beyond including of course, the British Royal Family. The name of Fabergé is attached to many real-life love stories.
Fabergé eggs feature in a number of movies and James Bond’s Octopussy is no exception – when an Imperial Egg arrives in the British embassy in the hands of the fatally wounded agent, 009!
Our founder Peter Carl Fabergé created 50 of these bejewelled eggs for the Russian Imperial Royal family, each one unique in its design. While Fabergé is synonymous with eggs the Company was primarily a jeweller who happened to make extraordinary objet and timepieces.
The same could be said, of course, for Chefs and eggs – the simplest and yet trickiest of ingredients to perfect. In Easter 2019, to acknowledge our common interests, Fabergé collaborated with John Williams MBE of the Ritz Hotel, London to create Eggs Fabergé – a dish inspired by the Imperial Mosaic Egg Tsar Nicholas II gave to his wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, for Easter 1914.
The technically challenging Imperial Fabergé egg, which took over one year to create, was the work of Fabergé’s first female designer, Alma Theresia Pihl. She was inspired by a petit point carpet she was embroidering as part of her marriage trousseau. Today, the Mosaic Egg forms part of the Fabergé collection owned by the British Royal Family.
One hundred and five years later and in keeping with Fabergé’s history for surprise and ingenuity, John Williams created a luxurious dish using the inside of an egg shell as a mould. The delicate dish demanded the very highest level of technical expertise. Featuring a soft-boiled quail’s egg encased in a lobster mousseline, decorated with a circular pattern of vegetable “gems” set into pasta, this edible Eggs Fabergé was served on a bed of Oscietra caviar and finished with a langoustine à la nage sauce.
John commented “As a Chef, I have a passion to create dishes which are both visually beautiful as well as full of flavour. It is a huge honour for my Eggs Fabergé dish to be endorsed by Fabergé with this special partnership for Easter”.
This dish closely mirrors the design of todays contemporary multi-coloured Fabergé Treillage egg pendant – with ruby, tsavorite and fire opal gemstones set into rose gold.
These egg objet inspired poets, novelists, filmmakers, chefs and countless rival jewellers – but where did Fabergé and the association with bejewelled eggs begin?
A French name, Fabergé’s soul belongs to Russia. Gustav Fabergé started a jewellery company in St. Petersburg in 1842 – but it was his son, Peter Carl Fabergé, who took over the running of the company when his father retired, who brought the name to international acclaim.
As a trainee goldsmith he served an internship at The Hermitage, St Petersburg where he worked with the treasures of the Romanov household. He went on a grand tour of Europe as part of his learning process to discover and appreciate art. He was deeply moved and inspired by these experiences.
Fabergé exhibited at the 1882 Moscow Pan-Russian Exhibition with a display that included a replica of a Scythian Treasure from the Tsar’s hermitage collection. The fine workmanship caught the eye of Tsar Alexander III and the Empress Maria Fedorovna purchased a pair of cufflinks – the first ever Fabergé purchase by a Romanov. By 1885 Fabergé was “Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”.
The first of many triumphs for the company’s relationship with the court was a result of Empress Maria Feodorovna reminiscing about a bejewelled egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine, when Maria Feodorovna’s was a child.
In 1885, the Tsar commissioned Fabergé to create a special Easter egg for his beloved wife. The first imperial Fabergé egg, which became known as the Hen Egg, was so well received that it became traditional for Tsar Alexander III and subsequently his son Tsar Nicholas II to commission a piece from Fabergé for Easter every year. These eggs became more elaborate and complicated as time went on and their fame spread around the world.
The Romanov family were related to many European royal families including the British royal family. These families exchanged gifts, and the Romanovs would often give Fabergé objets, from eggs to timepieces, picture frames, cigarette cases, perfume bottles, table top wear, carved hardstone figures and many other items. Primarily a jeweller, Fabergé invented new ways of working and devised exciting new movements for clockwork pieces. The focus was on creativity and perfection. The company was renowned for intricacy of design, the use of different coloured golds, coloured stones and guilloche enamel work. Peter Carl described himself as an “artist jeweller”.
As his reputation grew, Peter Carl opened branches in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London. The company’s royal patronage meant Fabergé was a popular gift, not only amongst the crowned heads of Europe but for others wishing to purchase objects of beauty.
The London branch of Fabergé was responsible for international sales (i.e. those outside of Russia). Peter Carl’s youngest son Nikolai (known as Nicholas) moved to London to oversee this branch and such was the company’s reputation that the manager, Mr. Bainbridge recalled “On one late afternoon, I remember when she (Queen Alexandra) brought with her the King and Queen of Norway, the King of Greece, the King of Denmark, if I remember rightly, Princess Victoria and Miss Charlotte Knollys. It is always the little things which stick in one’s memory, ‘May we open the drawers?’ the Queen asked.”
The outbreak of the First World War followed closely by the Russian revolution saw the Fabergé company seized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Peter Carl managed to escape to Switzerland, but never recovered from the loss. He died a broken man near Lausanne in 1920. This should have been the end of the Fabergé name – but it was in fact merely the closing of a chapter.
A number of family members continued the tradition albeit in a very modest way. Two of Peter Carl’s sons founded a small shop which traded as Fabergé et Cie in Paris, and Peter Carl’s grandson Theo Fabergé (1922-2007), the son of Nicholas Fabergé, was also a gifted craftsman and designer. He excelled in the art of ornamental turning on a lathe and won many awards throughout his lifetime from The Worshipful Company of Turners of London, the ancient Guild which represents the Art and Craft of Turning on a lathe.
Sadly, the Fabergé trademark was lost to the family in 1951 after a long legal battle. The name still carried such magic that it passed through many hands over the decades and was licensed for a wide variety of items including perfume.
In 2007, Peter Carl’s great grand-daughters Tatiana Fabergé (who sadly passed away in February this year) and Sarah Fabergé – both of whom had been involved in the design of a number of objects themselves over the years– were reunited with the Fabergé trademark when they were invited by the new owners to form a Heritage Council, together with John Andrew, a Fabergé aficionado and friend of Theo Fabergé, to advise on plans to revive Fabergé as a luxury jeweller. Geza Von Habsburg, an internationally renowned Fabergé expert and author, joined the Team as Curatorial Director and the Fabergé company was relaunched at Goodwood House, Sussex at 9am on the 9th September 2009 with a collection of high jewellery by the late Frédéric Zaavy – the first workmaster for almost a century. In 2011 Fabergé came full circle when they launched a series of egg objet and pendants during couture week in Paris.
Today’s company continues to introduce new pieces to its range. There are a variety of egg pendants to suit all tastes and jewellery includes rings, bangles, brooches, timepieces and objets. Today’s Fabergé adheres to the spirit and ethos of Peter Carl, the “artist jeweller”, and his workmasters in painting marvellous designs with precious and semi-precious coloured stones and diamonds, with guilloche enamel and coloured golds showing every gem to its finest advantage. The team take inspiration from the past but are always looking for innovative techniques and creative and challenging ways to engage with todays clients, often creating bespoke items – something for which Fabergé was renowned.
Todays watches celebrate the timepieces created by Fabergé across Peter Carl’s illustrious career and the grandmaster would have been delighted when the company won The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the Oscars of the global watch industry, not once but twice; in 2015 in the High Mechanical category for The Lady Compliquée Peacock watch (inspired by the Peter Carl Fabergé’s Peacock Imperial Egg created for Tsar Nicholas II and presented to his mother the Dowager Empress Feodorovna in 1908). The Lady Compliquée watch tells the time using individual peacock feathers which spread out minute by minute, folding back again on the hour. That same year Fabergé’s Summer in Provence watch was honoured in the jewellery category. In 2016, Fabergé won again, this time with the Visionnaire DTZ in the Travel Time category. One of the many details in this watch is a peacock shaped component within the movement which pays homage to the Lady Compliquée.
Collaborations with workmasters at the top of their specific field continue – like the piece held by the Roux Family on cover of this book. Sarah Fabergé presented the first ever Restaurant Association Award for Services to Hospitality to three members of the Roux family at the Restaurant Association Gala Dinner in London’s Savoy Hotel.
Sarah was keen to ensure the award itself was meaningful and that it represented all three members of the Roux family; Albert, his son Michel Jnr and Grand-daughter Emily. Sarah said “I had a concept in mind and contacted my good friend and fellow member of the Worshipful Company of Turners, Joey Richardson, artist and sculptor to ask her to turn a unique wooden egg for the occasion.” This could seem an unusual departure for Fabergé but as Sarah says, “Joey is a workmaster in her field and Fabergé does have a history of using wood. There is a dainty Karilean Birch wooden egg pendant with a ruby clasp that was made by Fabergé pre-1917”.
The brief was to create wooden egg award 12 inches in height and to represent the Roux family using three gemstones, a sapphire, a ruby and an emerald kindly donated to Fabergé by Gemfields, the world’s largest responsibly sourced gemstone company.
After turning the egg on a lathe, Joey included a Gallic rooster (the unofficial symbol of France) in her piercing and airbrushing work. “This was the perfect link as hens and cockerels also feature in a number of Fabergé pieces,” explains Joey “The books on shelves represent the library Michel Roux Jr. describes as ‘the heartbeat of the restaurant’. The bottles and glasses illustrate the wine cellar and bar at Le Gavroche – described by sommelier David as containing ‘little treasures, little gems hidden in certain regions.’ The three gemstones and trees represent the three members of the Roux family receiving this award. The pierced rose, the national emblem of England symbolises the English ingredients used. Likewise, the Fleur de Lys represents France signifying perfection, light and life. To quote Michel Roux Jr, ‘everything that comes into this kitchen from the supplier has to be perfect.” Le Gavroche opened in 1967 and this is represented in the textured work together with the Roux name and Urchin, the original symbol of Le Gavroche (an image from Les Misérables).”
“The flowers emulate the Michelin star symbol and the egg includes the logos of both Fabergé and the Restaurant Association together with the award title. I have incorporated my own symbol into the piece which is the butterfly which struggles to get out of its cocoon, but in the struggle finds the strength in its wings to fly. The butterfly can also be found if you peer inside the egg, where you will see it perched on a spoon with egg yolk on it. The butterfly has the Eiffel Tower depicted on its wings.”
“The dragonfly, on the base is in memory of Binh Pho, my inspirational mentor and dear friend. The shoe for me will always represent Sarah Fabergé. I was with her once when a friend asked how she had travelled somewhere. She replied; ‘I just clicked my shoes and found myself here!’ Her shoes on this egg are cracking eggs to make new exciting recipes, the future.”
Fabergé have also collaborated with Gary James McQueen to create Chemin Vers Fabergé, an artistic collaboration of limited-edition scarves and pocket squares.
Following Fabergé tradition, this design is full of little surprises and references. “Inviting Gary to explore his feelings for our company has resulted in wearable art,” Sarah Fabergé explains. “ We named this work Chemin Vers Fabergé because it tells our story, evoking feelings of both past and present”. The scarves and pocket squares are a nod to the company’s history of making everyday objects which, pre-Russian revolution, included ladies’ fans. Set against Gary’s moody black backdrop, we step into a dream like world of Fabergé. Stare hard and a contemporary simple rose gold pendant, the clover and the ladybird emerge together with vibrant, colourful gemstones all dominated by an elaborate gold sculpture which pays tribute to the start of Peter Carl Fabergé’s extraordinary career.
Fabergé returned again to Goodwood last year when they joined forces with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to create a unique objet d’art for one discerning patron. For the first time in history, an iteration of the Spirit of Ecstasy, the enigmatic mascot that has adorned Rolls-Royce motor cars since 1911, was cocooned in an exquisite contemporary Fabergé Egg.
The design was brought to life by Fabergé workmaster Paul Jones, creating a contemporary interpretation of one of the world’s most fabled and prized possessions.
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, commented, “’The Spirit of Ecstasy’ Fabergé Egg was born from an intrinsic desire to further the realms of bespoke personalisation. Responding to the continuing demands of patrons in search of unique and cherished possessions, a designer at the House of Rolls-Royce sketched an egg, igniting a fascination that will undoubtedly become one of the most collectable items of modern times.”
A team of seven craftspeople from Fabergé used the finest materials married with their extraordinary skill as artist jewellers to realise the design. Design cues from Fabergé’s heritage are masterfully woven into the intricate design which stands at 160mm and weighs just 400g. The Egg rests on an engine-turned, hand-engraved, purple enamel guilloche base of 18 karat white gold. Arms of rose gold define the shape of the egg, acting as a protective chamber for the Egg’s precious inhabitant. Upon operating the movement via a discreet lever at the base of the stand, a sense of theatre ensues as the boughs open to present the fine figurine of the Spirit of Ecstasy, hand-sculpted in frosted rock crystal.
The rose gold vanes, embellished with nearly 10 carats of round white diamonds, resolve into swathes of natural amethyst weighing over 390 carats, specially selected for its colour saturation and quality. The Spirit of Ecstasy Fabergé Egg uses a complex operating mechanism, conceived through computer aided design and animation and developed using micro engineering. The piece embodies both the artistic design and engineering skill that one expects from a collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Fabergé.
The late Frederic Zaavy once said of his Fabergé Seahorse brooch, “When he looks at you and when you look at him there is something happening that somehow makes you feel better and lighter.”
Sarah Fabergé says “We aim for this to be true of all our pieces. We cherish our past and decorate the present, taking forward the concepts of fine craftsmanship, creativity and collaboration not only with our makers but also with our clients. It is always a joy to be involved in the creation of a bespoke piece which is unique and personal to the individual or organization”
The Fabergé company has celebration and gifting at its core and once again offers and creates jewellery, timepieces and objet to lift the spirits and to celebrate special moments. Joshua Fabergé, Sarah’s son and Peter Carl’s Great-Great Grandson is the latest addition to the family team, ensuring that the Fabergé name is alive and thriving in the 21st Century.