Sunday, February 16, 2014

Grandiose Easter Eggs of Russia - Faberge Eggs

Tsar Alexander II and his wife Marie Fedorovna

The 2014 Sochi Olympics is the most expensive Winter Olympics ever prepared. The whole cost of the Sochi Olympics amounts to $44 billion. The Russians are not new when it comes to expensive and elegant things. Several items synonymous to the Russians priced a lot of dollars. For example, caviar, an expensive fish of sturgeons is always associated with Iranians and Russians. But one of the most expensive treasures labelled to Russians are the elegant and very expensive Faberge Eggs.

Faberge Eggs are Easter eggs decorated with precious stones and usually made of gold. It was the symbol of wealth, power, and luxury of the Romanov Dynasty. It beginnings were traced to a gift to a mourning Tsarina. From the gift it became a tradition that led to a lot of beautifully decorated eggs that today worth millions.

The start of the Faberge Eggs can be drawn during the time of the Tsarist Russia. It was during the reign of Alexander III. The Tsar just took power for four years, after the bloody assassination of his father, Tsar Alexander II. During that time, Alexander III’s wife, Tsarina Marie Fedorovna, was traumatized by the death of his father-in-law. She was gloomy and somewhat depressed. His husband wished to cheer her up. In addition, he wanted to give a gift for their 20th wedding anniversary. Moreover, more to cheering her up and celebrating two decades of marriage, Easter was nearing.

In Russian tradition, Easter is a very important and celebratory day. For the Russian Orthodox Church, it celebrates the resurrection of Christ. Following the Julian calendar, it is celebrated either in April or May. Many exchange gifts and colorfully decorated eggs. The tsar thought to give her wife a very special egg.

The Tsar was also inspired to give an grandiose egg with a similarly extravagantly decorated egg owned by the aunt of his wife, Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark. Tsarina’s aunt owed a very beautiful egg that was admired by the Tsarina. The Tsar wanted to recreate that egg to cheer his wife.

Carl Faberge
The task of making the Tsar gift into reality fell into the hands of the famous jeweler Peter Carl Faberge. Carl Faberge was the son of the owner of the well renowned jeweler shop, the House of Faberge. In a young age, he was sent by his father to study in Europe. While in Europe, he studied the art of making jewelry. In the age of 26, he returned to Russia and later on took charge of the family business. His jewelry business created many pieces of work of art. In 1882, his works were displayed during the Pan-Russian Exhibition. One of the most affluent individuals that took notice of him was the Russian Tsar himself, Alexander III.

The Tsar gave Faberge 15,000 rubles for a very elegant Easter egg. The result was the first Faberge Egg known as the Hen Egg. The Hen Egg is like a nest doll. The Hen Egg’s shell is made of gold with an opaque enameled shell. Inside is a yellow gold yolk. The yolk then holds a golden hen with eyes made of rubies. Further inside the hen lies a miniature crown jewel and a tiny ruby egg. Unfortunately, the miniature crown and the tiny ruby egg is lost. The Tsarina was very much delighted when she received the egg. So delighted, that the Tsar every year ordered for similarly grandiose eggs, with a special surprise inside the egg being the requirement.

The tradition continued even if Tsar Alexander III died. His successor and son, Nicholas II continued to order eggs to Faberge every Easter. In 1900, the Faberge was among the Russian icons displayed in the World Exhibition in Paris, alongside with the famous Matryoshka dolls. One of the most famous eggs during Nicholas’ time was the Fifteenth Anniversary Egg to celebrate his marriage to his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra, in 1911. The end of the Romanov Faberge ended when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917. Peter Carl Faberge escaped Russia. Most of his works, either lost or sold in the market for millions of dollars.
Venable, S. Gold: A Cultural Encyclopedia. California: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011. 

Volkov, S. St. Petersburg: A Cultural History. New York City: Free Press Paperbacks, 1995.

“Faberge Eggs.” Treasures of the World. Accessed February 16, 2014. http://www.pbs.org

“Imperial Eggs.” Faberge. Accessed February 16, 2014. http://www.faberge.com   

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