A note from Elayne:
Recently one of our collectors gifted me with
a marvelous book that was actually the catalog
for what was probably the largest single exhibition
of Fabergé masterpieces to date.
Twenty nine museums and named private collections
were exhibited, along with several loans from
additional private collectors who wished to
remain anonymous. Many of these had never before
been displayed publicly. The book is an absolute
treasure trove of information. Written by the
foremost authorities on Fabergé, it
expresses things about the works of Fabergé that
in my opinion every collector should know.
I wish that all of you could read it, but I
have chosen one short essay written by the
Director of the State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail
Piotrovski, and provided it here for your edification
"The name Fabergé is world renowned.
Objects bearing his trade mark are the dream
of collectors and museums. Fabergé exhibitions
have flooded the world; his name resounds
like a fairy tale of luxury and beauty.
Fabergé’s beautiful objects not
only bring us immeasurable pleasure but they
also teach us a lot. They show us how jewellery,
an applied art form, can become great art and
enter the world’s cultural heritage alongside
masterpieces of painting and sculpture. Furthermore,
they teach us that the crafts and other disparate
art forms should be treated with equal respect.
The Fabergé style is one of historicism,
a combination of methods, techniques, and
aesthetics of various epochs. This style
was once condescendingly labeled eclecticism.
Only recently has it been accorded the same
rights as other traditionally respected art
Fabergé’s oeuvre is a marvellous
merger of European and Russian artistic traditions,
and not only because of the renowned Imperial
Easter Eggs. Fabergé workshops produced
masterpieces equally eloquent in the stylistic
languages of both Russia and western Europe.
Objects bearing the Fabergé name perfectly
combine the personal tastes and talents of
the founder of the jewellery firm and its many
masters. Personal and group efforts were brought
together without sacrificing individuality.
The style rightfully bears the name of Fabergé,
but proudly standing behind that name, unforgotten,
are those masters who created it.
The Fabergé style is an amalgam of
world achievements in art, but at the same
time it embodies many of the characteristic
features of the twentieth century. Fabergé’s
reputation swept across Europe at the dawn
of this century, beginning with the 1900
Exposition Universelle in Paris. it continues
to shine as brightly at the end of the century,
as evidenced by this exhibition, among the
largest and most representative of those
organised to this date.
In enjoying the art of Fabergé we
can see distinctly how labour and creativity
combine to produce masterpieces, and how
real art, which constitutes the pride of
humankind, is born."
State Hermitage Museum
Taken from Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, compiled
by Géza Von Hapsburg and Marina
The spellings in the essay above are those
of the author, European spellings. Notice
that the title spelling of the word Jeweler
is the American spelling of the word. The
publisher was Abrams, the American publisher
of fine art books.
I have one personal comment I would like to
add to this: aside from physical differences,
there are two qualities that distinguish the
human animal from wild animals: the ability
to reason and the ability to create and appreciate
beauty. Without these two qualities we would
have remained much like wild animals and prehistoric
man, concerned only with satisfying our own
immediate needs and appetites. I mention this
because public schools all over the United
States, in their efforts to save money, have
removed Art, Music and all Culture from their
curriculum and it has resulted in what we are
seeing today in our young people. Please take
a stand in your community and remind the school
boards that by removing these subjects from
the schools, they are denying our young the
ability to appreciate life and what it is really
The following article is taken
in its entirety from a publication called Fabergé Collectors
Society, issue Summer 2001.
The extraordinary success that Peter Carl
Fabergé achieved in his lifetime, and
the fact that his work is remembered and remains
so highly coveted, can be explained in a number
of ways. Fabergé articles represent
the very highest traditions of the historic
European applied arts. Fabergé articles
were made using the finest quality materials
and utilized the skills of the very best and
most talented craftsmen. Yet, there is another
factor, an almost indefinable element that
distinguishes the work of Fabergé from
that of all others - a unique quality that
combines superb craftsmanship, inventive design
with sublime playfulness to achieve a sensitivity
and delicate, almost ephemeral design balance.
Today this unique combination of elements is
recognized throughout the world by one word
The Fabergé firm played a leading role
in Russian and European decorative art during
the late 19th and early 20th century. Working
for the Russian Imperial Court, Fabergé was
able to make a wealth of fine objects, some
simple and some elaborate, but all inventively
designed and meticulously executed. Fabergé believed
that the intrinsic value of an object was its
design, and not necessarily the number or carat
weight of the stones or the amount of gold
that was used to create an object. This was
a novel and unique concept at the time.
During the 1890's the Fabergé workshop
became noted for enameling techniques. Through
innovations in the technique of enameling,
Fabergé attained a subtlety and brilliance
that was unmatched. The technique of enameling
is an extremely delicate one involving firing
the enamel (a compound of glass and metal oxides)
at very high temperatures. Often an enamel
object combined different colors of enamel,
and it was therefore necessary to individually
fire the different colors at different temperatures.
Fabergé's superb enameling techniques
are perhaps the most important aspect of his
work. Fabergé was noted for an extensive
range of enamel colors, numbering up to 150
different shades. In fact, it was not unusual
for women to have dresses made to match the
enamel colors of their Fabergé jewelry.
In the enameling process, enamel is applied
by fusion to a metallic surface. The word "fusion" is
the key to the enameling operation. For enamel
to become soft, so that it can be applied to
a metal surface, it must be heated to a high
temperature, and it is precisely this heating
process that makes enamel work so difficult.
Traditionally, the finest translucent enamel
is heated to approximately 600 degrees centigrade.
However, the Fabergé workshop often
fired enamel at temperatures that ranged up
to 800 degrees centigrade. At such tremendously
high temperatures, any slight error or miscalculation
in the preparation or application of the enamel
would cause defects and imperfections in the
enamel. Fabergé personally inspected
all articles and any imperfect objects were
A characteristic of Fabergé enameling
is the even quality and perfect smoothness
of its surface. The texture of Fabergé enamel
is perfect smoothness, without any imperfections
or "pimples." Fabergé perfected
the challenging technique known as en ronde
bosse-that is, enameling on curved surfaces.
This type of enameling allows for no margin
of error and is the most difficult to achieve.
However, Fabergé became most famous
for his enamel guilloché. Enamel guilloché is
the pleasing effect that is achieved when translucent
enamel is applied over an engraved design on
a metal surface using a machine known as a
tour à guilloché. Using this
turning device, a variety of patterns called
guilloché patterns could be engraved
in the surface of the metal, the most popular
being moiré and basket weave designs.
In order to achieve the highly translucent
effect, each layer of enamel , and there could
be as many as 5 or 6 layers, had to be individually
fired. Examples of Fabergé enamel guilloché work
are the sunburst pattern on the Imperial Coronation
Egg or the shell pattern on the Pine Cone Egg.
Fabergé also applied enamel over a guilloché ground
on decorative picture frames, cigarette cases,
desk clocks and other articles.
Today the Fabergé collection features
many beautiful enamel guilloché objects:
eggs, picture frames, clocks, etc. Some of
these articles are still produced using the
same enameling methods that were used by Peter
Carl Fabergé more than a century ago.
However, many currently produced Fabergé objects
are made using contemporary manufacturing techniques
that replicate the beautiful effects of Fabergé's
high fired translucent enamels. Modern science
has developed enameling techniques that do
not require high temperature firing, yet achieve
the pleasing effect of true enamel guilloché at
much lower costs.
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