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The House of Fabergé is a jewellery firm founded in 1842 in Imperial Russia famed for designing elaborate jewel-encrusted Fabergé Eggs for the Russian Tsars.

Contents

Early Years

The Fabergé family can be traced back to 17th century France, then under the name Favri. The Favris lived at the village of La Bouteille in the Picardy region of northern France. However, they fled the country during or shortly after 1685 because of religious persecution. An estimated fellow 250,000 Huguenots, as the movement of French Protestants was known, also became fugitives.[citation needed]

Papers in the Fabergé Family Archives reveal that during the family's progress eastwards through Europe the family’s name changed progressively from Favri through Favry, Fabri, Fabrier and then to Faberge without an accent. At Schwedt-on-Oder northeast of Berlin in the second half of the 18th century a Jean Favri (subsequently Favry) is known to have been employed as a tobacco planter. By 1800 an artisan called Pierre Favry (later Peter Fabrier), had settled in Pärnu in the Baltic province of Livonia (now Estonia). A Gustav Fabrier was born there in 1814. By 1825 the family’s name had evolved to Faberge.

In the 1830s, Gustav Faberge moved to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, to train as a goldsmith under Andreas Ferdinand Spiegel, who specialised in making gold boxes. Later he continued his training with the celebrated firm of Keibel, goldsmiths and jewellers to the Tsars. In 1841, his apprenticeship over, Gustav Faberge earned the title of Master Goldsmith.

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Launch of Fabergé

In 1842, Gustav Faberge opened his own retail jewelry, "Fabergé", in a basement shop in the capital’s fashionable Bolshaia Morskaia. The addition of the accent may have been an attempt to give the name a more explicitly French character, appealing to the Russian nobility's francophilia. French was the language of the Russian Court and the urban nobility, and closely associated with luxury goods. Later in that year, Gustav married Charlotte Jungstedt, the daughter of Carl Jungstedt, an artist of Danish origin. In 1846, the couple had a son, Peter Carl Fabergé, popularly known as Carl Fabergé.

Carl Fabergé

Carl Fabergé was educated at the Gymnasium of St Anne’s. This was a fashionable establishment for the sons of the affluent middle classes and the lower echelons of the nobility, providing an indication of the success of his father’s business. Gustav Fabergé retired to Dresden, Germany in 1860, leaving the firm in the hands of managers outside of the Fabergé family while his son continued his education. The young Carl undertook a business course at the Dresden Handelsschule. At the age of 18, he embarked on a Grand Tour. He received tuition from respected goldsmiths in Frankfurt,Germany, France and England, attended a course at Schloss’s Commercial College in Paris and viewed the objects in the galleries of Europe’s leading museums.

Carl returned to St Petersburg in 1872, aged 26 years. For the following 10 years, his father’s Workmaster, Hiskias Pendin, acted as his mentor and tutor. In 1881, the company moved to larger street-level premises at 16/18 Bolshaia Morskaia. Following Pendin’s death in 1882, Carl took over the running of the firm. Three other significant events happened that year. He was awarded the title of Master Goldsmith. Agathon Fabergé, his younger brother by 16 years, joined the business. While Agathon’s education was restricted to Dresden, he was noted as a talented designer that provided the business with fresh impetus, until his death 13 years later.

Rise to Prominence

Following Carl’s involvement with repairing and restoring objects in the Hermitage Museum, the firm was invited to exhibit at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow. One of the Fabergé pieces displayed at the Pan-Russian Exhibition was a replica of a 4th century BC gold bangle from the Scythian Treasure in the Hermitage Museum. Tsar Alexander III declared that he could not distinguish Fabergé’s work from the original. He ordered that specimens of work by the House of Fabergé should be displayed in the Hermitage Museum as examples of superb contemporary Russian craftsmanship. In 1885, the House of Fabergé was bestowed with the coveted title "Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown", beginning an association with the Russian tsars.

The Imperial Easter Eggs

The Moscow Kremlin egg, 1906

In 1885, Tsar Alexander III commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an easter egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna. Its ‘shell’ is enamelled on gold to represent a normal hen’s egg. This pulls apart to reveal a gold yolk, which in turn opens to produce a gold chicken that also opens to reveal a replica of the Imperial Crown from which a miniature ruby egg was suspended. Although the Crown and the miniature egg have been lost, the rest of the Hen Egg as it is known is now in the collection of Victor Vekselberg.

The tradition of the Tsar giving his Empress a surprise Easter Egg by Carl Fabergé continued. From 1887, it appears that Carl Fabergé was given complete freedom as to the design of the Imperial Easter Eggs as they became more elaborate. According to the Fabergé Family tradition, not even the Tsar knew what egg form they would take: the only stipulation was that each one should contain a surprise. The House of Fabergé completed 54 Imperial Eggs for Alexander III to present to his Empress and for Nicholas II to present to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna and his wife the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna.[1] Of these, 42 have survived. The Eggs for 1917 were never completed, but have been discovered in recent years.

Hardstone Sculptures

Amongst Fabergé’s more popular creations were the miniature hardstone carvings of people, animals and flowers carved from semi-precious or hardstones and embellished with precious metals and stones. The most common animal carvings were elephants and pigs but included custom made miniatures of pets of the British Royal family and other notables. The flower sculptures were complete figural tableaus, which included small vases in which carved flowers were permanently set, the vase and "water" were done in clear rock crystal (quartz) and the flowers in various hardstones and enamel.[2] The figures were typically only 25-75mm long or wide, with some larger and more rare figurines reaching 140mm to 200mm tall,[3] and were collected throughout the world; the British Royal family has over 250 items in the Royal Collection, including pieces made by Perchin and Wigström.[4] Other important Fabergé miniature collectors were Marjorie Merriweather Post[5], her niece Barbara Hutton[6] and even Fabergé's competitor Cartier, who in 1910 purchased a pink jade pig and a carnelian (agate) fox with cabochon ruby eyes set in gold.[7][8]

Other Fabergé Creations

The House of Fabergé also stocked a full range of jewellery and other ornamental objects. There were enamelled gold and silver gilt, as well as wooden photograph frames; gold and silver boxes; desk sets and timepieces.[9] Quality was assured by every article made being approved by Carl Fabergé, or in his absence by his eldest son Eugène, before it was placed into stock. The minutest of faults would result in rejection.

Continued Expansion

The House of Fabergé won international awards and became Russia’s largest jewellery firm employing some 500 craftsmen and designers. In the early 20th century, the headquarters of the House of Fabergé moved to a purpose-built, four-storey building in Bolshaia Morskaia. Branches were also opened in Moscow, Odessa, Kiev and London. From England, the company made annual visits to the Far East.

After the Revolution

The House of Fabergé was nationalised by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In early October, Carl Fabergé left St Petersburg on the last diplomatic train for Riga. The revolution in Latvia started in the middle of the following month and Carl was again fleeing for his life to Germany, first to Bad Homburg and then to Wiesbaden. The Bolsheviks imprisoned his sons Agathon and Alexander. Initially, Agathon was released to value the valuables seized from the Imperial family, the aristocrats, wealthy merchants and Fabergé amongst other jewellers. He was re-imprisoned when the Bolsheviks found it difficult to sell this treasure at Agathon’s valuations. With Europe awash with Russian jewels, prices had fallen. Madame Fabergé and her eldest son, Eugène, avoided capture by escaping under the cover of darkness through the snow-covered woods by sleigh and on foot. Towards the end of December 1918, they had crossed the border into the safety of Finland.

Meanwhile, Carl Fabergé was in Germany and became seriously ill. Eugène reached Wiesbaden in June 1920 and accompanied his father to Switzerland where other members of the family had taken refuge. Carl Fabergé died in Lausanne on September 24, 1920. His wife died in January 1925. Although Alexander managed to escape from prison when a friend bribed guards, Agathon did not succeed in making his escape from the USSR until 1927.

In 1924 Alexander and Eugéne opened Fabergé et Cie in Paris, where they had a modest success making the types of items that their father retailed years before. To distinguish their pieces from those made in Russia before the Revolution, they used the trademark FABERGÉ, PARIS, whereas the Russian company's trademark was just FABERGÉ. They also sold jewellery and had a sideline repairing and restoring the items that had been made by the original House of Fabergé. Fabergé et Cie continued to operate in Paris until 2001. In 1984 Fabergé et Cie lost their rights to use the trademark Fabergé for jewelry in a law suit against Fabergé Inc.[10]

The American oil billionaire Armand Hammer collected many Fabergé pieces during his business ventures in communist Russia in the 1920’s. In 1937 Armand Hammer’s friend Samuel Rubin, owner of the Spanish Trading Corporation, which imported soap and olive oil, closed down his company because of the Spanish civil war and established a new enterprise to manufacture perfumes and toiletries. He registered it, at Hammer’s suggestion, as Fabergé Inc.[11] Samuel Rubin purchased the brand name Fabergé from Fabergé & Cie for $25,000 in 1937. In 1964, Rubin sold Fabergé for $26 million to George Barrie and the Rayette Inc. The Cosmetics company Rayette changed its name in 1964 to Rayette-Fabergé Inc. and in 1971 the company name was changed to Fabergé Inc. In 1984 McGregor Corp., a men's and boys' clothing maker bought Fabergé Inc. They changed their name temporarily to Mcgregor Fabergé. The Riklis Family Corporation bought a mayority of the McGregor stocks. From 1964 to 1984 under the direction of George Barrie many well known and successful product lines as well as feature movies have been launched by Faberge Inc.[12]

Mr. Barrie supervised Fabergé's introduction of the popular Brut (cologne) toiletry line for Fabergé which was promoted by the football player Joe Namath's. In 1977, he signed Farrah Fawcett to a promotional contract with Fabergé for the Farrah Fawcett hair product and fragrance lines. A famous Fabergé TV ad featured Joe Namath being shaven by Farrah Fawcett. Brut became the best selling cologne in the world at the time. It is still available in stores worldwide today.

In 1967 the film actor and business man Cary Grant was appointed Creative Consultant and in 1968 member of the Board of Directors of the company. The actor Roger Moore became another celebrity board member in 1970. George Barrie established Fabergé's filmmaking division, Brut Productions in 1970 and put together the Academy Award winning movie titeled A Touch of Class in 1973 and other feature movies.

Barrie launched the Babe fragrance in 1976, which in its first year became Fabergé's largest selling women's fragrance worldwide. The grand daughter of writer Ernest Hemingway, actress and model Margaux Hemingway received a $1 million contract to promote the perfume Babe by Fabergé in a very popular advertising campaign. Her famous Babe campaign was remembered again by millions after her mysterious death in 1996. Babe received two awards from the Fragrance Foundation for its launch: Most Successful Introduction of a Women's Fragrance in Popular Distribution, and Best Advertising Campaign for Women's Fragrance.

By 1984 the company had expanded its personal care products to Aphrodisia, Aqua Net Hair Spray, Babe, Cavale, Brut, Ceramic Nail glaze, Flambeau, Great Skin, Grande Finale, Just Wonderful, Macho, Kiku, Partage, Tip Top Accessories, Tigress, Woodhue, Xandu, Zizanie de Fragonard, Caryl Richards, Farrah Fawcett and Fabergé Organics. The company also bought other Firms and products, including D-LANZ and it's product BreastCare a breast cancer screening device.

In 1985, McGregor Industries acquired Faberge and discontinued many Faberge products including the original breast device D-LANZ. The company launches Mcgregor by Fabergé (Cologne) the same year. New product lines were introduced including men's, women's and children's apparel under the trademarks Billy the Kid, Scoreboard and Wonderknit.

In 1986 Mark Goldston, a specialist in evaluating areas of untapped sales and profit, was named President of Fabergé. He was principally responsible for targeting and acquiring the Elizabeth Arden Company from Ely Lilly Inc. for $725 million in 1986, turning Fabergé into a $1.2 billion firm. In 1989 the international corporation Unilever bought Fabergé Inc. from the Riklis Family Corporation for US$1.55 billion. At the same time Fabergé Inc. bought Elizabeth Arden Company from Ely Lilly Inc. for $725 million, turning Fabergé into a $1.2 billion firm. The company was renamed Elida Fabergé. The deal now placed Unilever at equal first place with L'Oreal in the world cosmetics league, up from fourth place. Lever Fabergé was formed in early 2001 through the merger of the two Unilever companies, Lever Brothers and Elida Fabergé.The new company Lever Fabergé owned hundreds of cosmetics, household and other brands including Dove, Impulse, Sure, Lynx, Organics, Timotei and Signal, Persil, Comfort, Domestos, Surf, Sun and Cif.

Unilever soon discovered that it could use Fabergé trademarks to use the Fabergé name in connection with jewelery. The company registered the Fabergé name as a trademark across a wide range of merchandise internationally and granted licenses to third parties to make and sell a range of products under the Fabergé name. The jewelry company Victor Mayer in Germany was appointed Workmaster of Fabergé in 1989 and continued the work of Carl Fabergé until 2009 with genuine Jewellery and object's d'art. Like the founder of the firm, they developed impressive Egg objects dedicated to events or persons. The first post-revolutionary Fabergé Egg was dedicated to Mikhail Gorbachev (Gorbachev Peace Egg), which is now shown in the Kremlin Museum in Moscow. Many other head of states like Boris Jelzin, Nelson Mandela and the Queen of England received Fabergé Eggs made by the Workmaster Victor Mayer. The Fabergé website developed by the workmaster Victor Mayer in 1995, was the first website of a luxury firm worldwide

On January 3rd 2007 Unilever sold its entire global portfolio of trademarks, licences and associated rights relating to the Fabergé brand. The new owner is Cayman Islands-based Fabergé Limited, which is advised by Pallinghurst Resources LLP, an investment advisory firm based in London and chaired by Brian Gilbertson, the former CEO of BHP-Billiton plc, the world's largest mining company.

On November 27, 2007, the Rothschild Fabergé Egg was auctioned at Christie's (London) for £8.98 million. The Rothschild Fabergé Egg became the record price for a piece of Fabergé as well as the highest price ever paid for a Russian object and the most expensive price for a timepiece .[13]

In September Pallinghurst launches a new website (www.faberge.com) and jewelry line under the trade mark Fabergé. [14]

Further reading

  • Tatiana Fabergé, Lynette G. Proler, Valentin V, Skurlov. The Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs (London, Christie's 1997) ISBN 0-297-83565-3
  • The History of the House of Fabergé according to the recollections of the senior master craftsman of the firm, Franz P. Birbaum (St Petersburg, Fabergé and Skurlov, 1992)
  • Henry Char;es Bainbridge. Peter Carl Fabergé - Goldsmith and Jeweller to the Russian Imperial Court - His Life and Work (London 1979, Batsfords - later reprints available such as New York, Crescent Books, 1979)
  • A Kenneth Snowman The Art of Carl Fabergé (London, Faber & Faber, 1953-68) SBN 571 05113 8
  • Geza von Habsburg Fabergé (Geneva, Habsburg, Feldman Editions, 1987) ISBN 0-89192-391-2
  • Alexander von Solodkoff & others. Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé (New York, Harry N Abrahams, 1984) ISBN 0-8109-0933-2
  • Géza von Habsburg Fabergé Treasures of Imperial Russia (Link of Times Foundation, 2004) ISBN5-9900284-1-5
  • Toby Faber. Faberge's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire (New York: Random House, 2008) ISBN 978-1-4000-6550-9
  • Gerald Hill. Faberge and the Russian Master Goldsmiths (New York: Universe, 2007) ISBN 978-0-7893-9970-0

References

  1. ^ List of Fabergé eggs
  2. ^ Carl Faberge and His Successors: Hardstone Figures
  3. ^ A. von Solodkoff, A. Fabergé's hardstone figures in Munich Kuntshalle of the Hypo Kulturstiftung, Fabegé, (Munich, 1986), p.86, n.38
  4. ^ http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/eGallery/category.asp?category=289&row=200
  5. ^ Hillwood Museum, Washington, DC
  6. ^ Cartier By Hans Nadelhoffer, Pg 124
  7. ^ Cartier By Hans Nadelhoffer, Pg. 92
  8. ^ 1142 Achat Stopford (Fabergé) 1 Renard en cornaline rouge aux aguets, corps ½ replié, yeux en roses, Geza von Habsburg, Faberge / Cartier, Rivalen am Zarenhof, Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2003, page 80
  9. ^ Bloomberg.com: News
  10. ^ http://www.ipd.gov.hk/eng/intellectual_property/trademarks/trademarks_decisions/decision/DEC197801106OP.pdf
  11. ^ http://www.stpetersburgcollection.com/history.htm
  12. ^ http://spoonfeedin.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/business-the-fall-rise-of-faberge/
  13. ^ Russian bidding battle as crowing cockerel egg by Faberge fetches £9m - Times Online
  14. ^ http://www.mieks.com/faberge/new.htm

External links


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