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What Carl Fabergé built


On the 100th anniversary of her great-grandfather’s death, Sarah Fabergé talks about his enduring legacy and the journey of the brand

Fabergé’s coloured enamel shot glasses have been in demand during the pandemic (yes, the spenders are housebound!), while a recent collaboration with London-based designer, James Ganh, has fans looking forward to a high-jewellery collection that includes multicoloured gemstone butterfly brooches-pendants and other transformable creations. But any talk of Fabergé must begin with the opulent and decorative eggs that have inspired poets, novelists, filmmakers, even chefs.

As for Peter Carl Fabergé, the famed goldsmith to the Russian Imperial court, much has been documented about his life, in books, films and interviews. The first egg he made for the Russian Tsar Alexander III (commissioned for his wife) in 1885, was reportedly based on the 18th-century Saxon Royal Egg that he had seen in the Green Vault museum in Dresden.

(Left) Sarah Fabergé, the great-granddaughter of Peter Carl Fabergé (right)
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There are the Easter eggs he created over three decades in St Petersburg, fashioned from three-coloured gold, rock crystal and other fine materials, encrusted with precious stones, and often concealing a delicious surprise. More than 150,000 objects, from clocks and photo frames to pieces of jewellery, were made at the same time, with Carl Fabergé leading a team of talented artisans. He died in Switzerland on September 24, 1920, two years after he fled from the Bolsheviks. And then began the journey of his 50 Imperial Eggs. To Moscow, the US and other parts of the world. While some of these bejewelled beauties are still missing, many can be viewed up close at Moscow’s Kremlin Armoury and the Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg.

In good company

  • According to Géza von Habsburg, Fabergé’s curatorial director, every Fabergé workmaster had his own speciality.
  • “In my opinion, the self-taught Russian, Mikhail Perkhin, head workmaster of the firm from 1886 to 1903, was the firm’s most outstanding craftsman.”
  • “The originality of his designs, the wealth of materials used, the exquisite execution of the large majority of his works and the opulence of the enamel colours used, have no comparison in Fabergé’s oeuvre.”
  • He also highlights Johann Victor Aarne for his detailed work and “easily recognisable varicoloured gold garlands of flowers”.

“There are so many stories to absorb about Fabergé,” says Sarah Fabergé, the great-granddaughter of Carl Fabergé, when we ask her about the brand’s legacy. “While it is a French name with a Russian soul and an international reputation, having grown up in England, I am particularly enjoying the book Fabergé in London: The British Branch of the Imperial Russian Goldsmith by Kieran McCarthy,” she says. Sarah, 61, has been representing the brand at some of the most glamorous events around the world. “My great-grandfather described himself as a shopkeeper and in this way, connecting with and listening to our clients and partners is what I find the most energising and it is vital to our business,” she says. While the Fabergé Hen Egg is one of her favourites, 1983’s Octopussy, tops her list of pop culture references. “Being part Russian and a James Bond fan, the use of a Fabergé Egg in a Bond film for me is the perfect blend of mystery, storytelling and intrigue. Reality meets fantasy. We all need a bit of both!” she concludes.

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