31 May 2013
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This June’s Russian Week saw exceptional historic coloured gemstone-set jewels and objects by the House of Fabergé on sale at auction in London by Christie's, Sotheby’s and Bonhams.

When Peter Carl Fabergé took over the running of his father’s jewellery business in 1882, he became renowned as an artist-jeweller, focusing on setting each gemstone to best reflect its unique character and reintroducing the lost art of enamelling. It was not only enamel that brought colour to his work, but also his use of precious and semi-precious coloured gemstones, harnessing a delightfully-orchestrated play of light to fashion a characteristic richness of colour.

Amongst the Fabergé treasures on sale at Christie’s on June 3rd was a hexagonal-cut aquamarine-and-diamond pendant brooch mounted in platinum, with an openwork border of diamond-set arrows within two pavé diamond borders. The brooch is surmounted by a diamond-set ribbon twist pierced with two arrows. It was made in St Petersburg in 1899-1904 with a length of 5.7cm and fetched £31,250.

Bonhams’ auction on June 5th featured another ravishing coloured gemstone brooch, this time with a cushion-cut pink tourmaline set within a pierced surround of rose-cut diamonds. The brooch was made by Fabergé’s workmaster Henryk Wigström in St Petersburg during the period 1908-17 and was estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Bonhams also offered a stunning Imperial Romanov cigarette case of historic interest on June 5th. Made of lavender guilloché enamel with an applied Imperial double-headed eagle, it was purchased by the Empress Alexandra and presented to her husband Nicholas II on May 29 1897. This was on the occasion of the birth of their second daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana. Sophie Law, Director of Bonhams Russian Department commented: ‘There can be few items of recent Russian history that bear such a weight of sentiment – a gift of love between a doomed royal couple on the occasion of their daughter's birth. It is made with superb craftsmanship by Fabergé’s workmaster August Holmstöm, but more importantly it commemorates three people whose lives were to end violently, bringing to an end an historic era.‘ The Empress purchased the case for 350 roubles, then about £35. An American businessman acquired it at the Soviet-run ‘Torgsin’ store in Moscow on August 18th 1931 for a mere 103 roubles. It was sold by Bonhams for a total of £205,250.

In 1901 Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra of Russia made a State Visit to Paris. The following May, President Émile Loubet of France made a reciprocal State Visit to Russia. The occasion was marked with the bestowal of lavish gifts both to the President and to members of his retinue. Indeed, the Cameral Office of the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty went to great trouble to ensure appropriately generous gifts were given. The President’s Attaché, Colonel Marie-Félix Silvestre, received an impressive clock featuring a griffin rampant, which is one of the heraldic devices of the Romanov Dynasty. On a bowenite base, the actual timepiece is surmounted by the Imperial double-headed eagle and measures 24.5cm. It was made by Fabergé’s workmaster Julius Rappoport. In 1902 it cost 500-roubles, then about £50. It was sold by Sotheby’s on June 4th for £242,500.

Images courtesy of © Bonhams, © Sotheby's and © Christie's Images 2013.
Find out more about auctions of pre-revolutionary Fabergé items at Christies, Sotheby’s and Bonhams.

Fabergé collections are available online or in our international boutiques.