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The Art of Fabergé
The Art of Fabergé Fabergé the Firm Fabergé the Man The Fabergé Family

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 and enjoyment:

"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 styles.

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."

Mikhail Piotrovski
Director, State Hermitage Museum

Taken from Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, compiled by Géza Von Hapsburg and Marina Lopato.

NOTE: 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 about.


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 - Fabergé.

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 discarded.

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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