There are many who know about the brand Fabergé in relation to the famous Imperial Easer Eggs. Not many are informed about the incredible history of this magnificent brand and how the famous Easter Eggs came into being. On the 100th death anniversary of Peter Carl Fabergé, we take you through the illustrious history of the brand and its recent foray into the world of watches.
A trip down memory lane:
Back in the 1830s, Gustav Fabergé moved to St Petersberg to train as a goldsmith and later joined the firm of Keibel who were the official goldsmiths and jewellers to the Emperors of Russia. He then eventually went on to establish a jewellery shop at the then fashionable street Bolshaya Morskaya. The year 1846 saw the birth of Gustav and Charlotte's (Jungste) son Carl Peter Fabergé who after seeking education at the Dresden Arts and Crafts School and a brief Grand Tour of Europe took over his father's jewellery shop in partnership with Agathon (Gustav's second son) in 1882. “As a trainee goldsmith Peter Carl served an internship at The Hermitage where he saw and handled the treasures of the Romanov household. Some years later the Fabergé company made a replica of a Scythian Treasure from the hermitage collection and displayed it at an exhibition in Moscow in 1882. The fine workmanship caught the eye of Tsar Alexander III and by 1885 Fabergé was “Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown”. So began the special commissions and the famous Fabergé eggs,” says Sarah Fabergé, great-granddaughter of Peter Carl Fabergé. Little did they know then that this was the beginning of the inception of Fabergé as we know today.
By 1877, Fabergé had been making the Imperial Easter Eggs for the Emperor for some time. According to the brand, they were given complete autonomy over the design of the Imperial Easter Egg. Even the Emperor was not aware of the design and form of the current year's Imperial Easter Egg. This was also the year that the Moscow branch of the House of Fabergé was opened. Slowly the brand shifted from being an ordinary jewellery shop started by Gustav in the basement of the Bolshaya Morskaya to a design-led, royal jewellery power house. “The patronage of both the Imperial Russian Family and that of the Royal Families of Europe no doubt enabled and influenced this shift, but above all it was the creativity and business acumen that existed within this remarkable man’s mind, together with that of the team of workmasters with whom he collaborated - those who brought these ideas and designs to life, that paved the way for the creative freedom and ingenuity that followed.” says Sarah.
By the 1900s, Fabergé has earned worldwide acclaim and popularity with honours pouring in from all over the world. The House of Fabergé had expanded to a flurry of full-fledged workshops, a design studio, offices, Peter Carl’s apartment and of course a show room. The company was employing a total of 500 craftsman and designers and was the largest jewellery firm in Russia. “Primarily a jeweller, Fabergé didn’t just make eggs but many other luxury items and accessories including picture frames, timepieces, cigarette cases, table-top wear, carved hardstone figures and many other items,” Sarah added. A lot of the success that the House of Fabergé received during these years were the result of the genius of Peter Carl Fabergé. His work was heavily influenced by the art he saw on his travels during his grand tour of Europe. Additionally he was also a modest man with very few words and someone who always put his clients's wishes first. “He knew how fond King Edward 7th was of his dog Caesar. According to Bainbridge (the then Manager of the London Branch of Fabergé) Caesar accompanied the King on 8th December 1907, as he unveiled the animals modelled in wax by Fabergé’s sculptors in the dairy at Sandringham. One of those on view was of Caesar. This wax model was afterwards created in white chalcedony with cabochon ruby eyes with a brown enamel and gold collar with a gold bell attached. The collar was inscribed “I belong to the King”. Peter Carl listened to his clients and knew how to delight them.” says Sarah.
Despite the upward graph the House of Fabergé was steadily climbing, the outbreak of World War I in 1914 marked a rather troublesome time for the brand. However, despite facing a rough patch, the brand came around and relaunched in 2007. This time, apart from announcing the unification of the Fabergé name and the Fabergé family, the brand spent the next few years establishing itself as a frontrunner in jewellery designs and bringing back its historical love for gemstones with the Colours of Love Collection. “Fabergé today takes forward the spirit and ethos of Peter Carl “the artist jeweller”, painting with coloured gemstones, guilloché enamel and the use of different coloured golds and precious metals to use them to their finest advantage. We do not make copies but take inspiration from our past while remembering that Peter Carl was always looking to the latest techniques and technology.” says Sarah.
The Beginning of Timekeeping:
2015 saw Fabergé dip its toe into the world of watchmaking with its first fine watch collection – the Fabergé Flirt, Compliquée Peacock, Fabergé Visionnaire and Summer in Provence. From the lot, the Compliquée Peacock went on to win one of the highest watch awards – the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Genève in the Hi-Mechanical category. The Compliquée Peacock is a perfect example of the influence that Peter Carl still had on the contemporary creations of the brand. It is inspired by the Imperial Easter Egg made in 1908 for the Empress Marie. “The rock crystal egg contains an automaton peacock. Today’s timepiece uses individual peacock feathers to indicate the time. These spread out minute by minute, folding back again on the hour. This complicated movement was created for us by a modern day workmaster, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht in collaboration with our Timepiece Director Aurélie Picaud, who oversaw a small team of artists. Together they brought about this award-winning piece and this collaborative way of working very much reflects the way Peter Carl ran his company.” says Sarah.
“Perhaps people aren’t aware that Peter Carl Fabergé was working with clockwork in objects and also creating wristwatches. Some of the famous Imperial Eggs were also clocks, each with imaginative new ways to tell the time. Fabergé was, for example, working with movements by Vacheron Constantin, Switzerland’s oldest manufacturer of fine watches, and the legendary independent watchmaker H. Moser & Cie.” adds Aurelie Picaud, Timepiece Director at Fabergé.
Carrying on with its objective to create beautiful timepieces like the winner of the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the Travel Time category – the Visionnaire DTZ Rose Gold timepiece and the Fabergé’s Lady Levity that was shortlisted in the Ladies category, Fabergé also announced its first timepieces workshop in Geneva. Additionally Fabergé also released the Dalliance collection which is inspired by a Fabergé clock that was made over a 100 years ago. “Our Fabergé timepieces express our key design attributes which are common to both jewellery and watches. These involve proportions, colours, layering of materials, and of course, an element of surprise. It is also extremely important to us to include the Fabergé characteristic of ingenuity throughout all our new timepieces, in particular with our complications. We develop exclusive Fabergé movements in order to create emotion, and other unexpected ways to display the time, as Fabergé himself was doing with Fabergé clock objects.” says Aurelie.
What Comes Next?
Despite being a household name for jewellery,, the house of Fabergé has definitely emerged and has carved a niche for itself in the watch industry. From its fantastically design-led masterpieces to its rather subtle, technologically adept wristwatches, Fabergé has come a long way. It has been through many peaky highs and depressing lows, but the brand has always been steadfast and survived. As this year marks the 100 year anniversary of the brand, it comes as no surprise that the brand is determined to continue developing their timepieces category by reinforcing their existing collection (Compliquée, Visionnaire, Dalliance, Altruist) while working on new ones too. “Fabergé has been through many ups and downs since 1842 but has maintained its fascination. Of course, these are very difficult and challenging times for everyone, and we cannot be complacent or try to predict the future right now. What I can say is that while we carry a “big” name we are a relatively small company with a highly dedicated team. This gives us the agility and flexibility to continue to communicate directly with our clients and partners...which, after all, worked rather well for Peter Carl.” says Sarah. And we completely agree!