Image: Black and white image of Peter Carl Fabergé working on jewellery. Text: The World of Fabergé

The
World of
Fabergé

In 1882 Peter Carl Fabergé took over his father’s very ordinary jewellery business. Together with his brother Agathon, he quickly transformed it into an international phenomenon. The success of the two brothers was changing the nature of the business. Out went the then fashionable style where diamonds prevailed. In came the design-led artist-jeweller with a penchant for colour through both stones and reviving the lost art of enamelling. They added objets deluxe to their repertoire, including objets de fantaisie such as the Imperial Easter Eggs, now regarded as pinnacles of the goldsmiths’ art. Today these are treasured in some of the world’s leading museums and private collections. The craftsmanship of all their creations was of the very finest standard. This formula of design and craftsmanship made Fabergé irresistible and the ultimate objects to own, as well as the gift of choice.
Coloured drawing of the view of the Beloseksky-Belozersky Palace, St. Petersburg, by J M Charlemagne, 1850s
View of the Beloselsky-Belozersky Palace, St Petersburg by J M Charlemagne, 1850s

1685 - 1825

The ancestors of the current Fabergé family lived in the Picardy region of northern France. The family’s name was then Favri and they were Huguenots (French Protestants) in a predominantly Catholic country. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which gave Huguenots protection, they fled and headed northeast. Over the years the family’s name changed from Favri through Favry, Fabri, Fabrier to Faberge. By 1800 an artisan called Pierre Favry (later Faberge), had settled in Pärnu in the Baltic province of Livonia (now Estonia).

1830s

Gustav Faberge (born in 1814) went to St Petersburg, the capital of Russia, to train as a goldsmith. Initially he worked under Andreas Spiegel, a gold box specialist, but later joined the celebrated firm of Keibel, goldsmiths and jewellers to the Emperors of Russia.

The foundation laid

1842

His apprenticeship completed, Gustav Faberge changed his name to Fabergé. Either he con-sidered the accent gave his name style, or added it as ‘ge’ in Russian is pronounced ‘jay.’ He opened a jewellery shop in a basement of the city’s fashionable street, Bolshaya Morskaya and married Charlotte Jungste.

1846

The couple’s first son Peter Carl Fabergé was born. He was educated in St Petersburg.
Gold buttone in their original Gustave Fabergé case. Now in a private collection

THE FORMATIVE YEARS

The sculpture of Gustav Fabergé at Parnu

1860 - 1862

Gustav Fabergé retired to Dresden with his family, leaving the business in the hands of manag-ers.Peter Carl Fabergé undertook a course at the Dresden Arts and Crafts School and was a regular visitor to the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault), the museum founded by Augustus the Strong in 1723. It contains the largest collection of treasures in Europe. Agathon, the Fabergés’ second son, was born in Dresden during 1862.

1864

Peter Carl Fabergé embarked upon a Grand Tour of Europe. He received tuition from respected goldsmiths in Germany, France and England and attended a course at Schloss’s Commercial College in Paris. He also viewed the masterpieces in the galleries of Europe’s leading museums.

1866

He returned to St Petersburg and married Augusta Jacobs. His father’s trusted workmaster Hiskias Pendin acted as Peter Carl’s mentor and tutor. He became involved with cataloguing, repairing and restoring masterpieces in the Hermitage (the museum founded by Catherine the Great as a court museum). This allowed him to study the forgotten techniques mastered by goldsmiths in antiquity. He later restored and repaired the 18th century objets d’art in the Collection including the exquisite French gold and enamel snuff boxes. During this period seeds were undoubtedly sown in his mind for using the past genre as inspiration for contemporary objects.
Interior of The Gallery of the History of Antique Painting in the Hermitage
The Gallery of the History of Antique Painting in the Hermitage

PETER CARL FABERGÉ TAKES CHARGE

Assortment of Fabergé antique pieces sitting on a table. In November 2008, Sotheby’s offered pieces of Fabergé, as well as other objets de luxe. Many of the 100 pieces were given to Thyra, Princess of Denmark, by her siblings, all of whom were Fabergé aficionados. The sale realised a total of £1.95 million. Image courtesy of Southeby’s
In November 2008, Sotheby’s offered pieces of Fabergé, as well as other objets de luxe. Many of the 100 pieces were given to Thyra, Princess of Denmark, by her siblings, all of whom were Fabergé aficionados. The sale realised a total of £1.95 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s

1882

Upon the death of Pendin, Peter Carl Fabergé took sole responsibility for running the company. Having seen the House’s work at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow, the Tzar Alexander III ordered it to be displayed in the Hermitage as examples of superb contemporary Russian craftsmanship.

1885 - 1886

The Emperor commissioned the company to make an Easter Egg for his Empress. Fabergé is bestowed with the coveted title, ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’. The Emperor commissioned Fabergé to make a second Easter Egg the following year.

THE RISE OF THE HOUSE OF FABERGÉ

1887

According to Fabergé family tradition, the company was given complete freedom for future Imperial Easter Eggs. Not even the Emperor knew what form they would take: the only stipulation was that each one should contain a surprise. The Moscow branch of the House of Fabergé opened.

1888

The House of Fabergé exhibited hors concours (not competing) at the Nordic Exhibition, Copenhagen as Eugène, Peter Carl’s eldest son, was a judge. The company was awarded a special diploma.
The Bay Tree Egg, given to the Dowager Empress, Maria Fedorovna in 1911. Image courtesy of the Forbes Collection.”

1890 - 1897

The St Petersburg premises doubled in size. Peter Carl received the title Appraiser of the Imperial Cabinet, therefore this formally recognised the company’s expertise. Sadly, Agathon, Peter Carl’s younger brother, died during 1895. The following year, the House of Fabergé was awarded the State Emblem at the Pan-Russian Exhibition, Nizhny Novogorod. In 1896 the House of Fabergé exhibited hors concours at the Nordic Exhibition, Stockholm. The House was granted a Royal Warrant by the Court of Sweden and Norway.

INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM

Old photograph of Fabergé Imperial Eggs. It’s possible to identify the Imperial Eggs in the cabinets. This helped to confirm that the gold egg bought by an American in the mid-west for it’s $14,000 scrap value, was indeed a Fabergé Imperial Egg
It possible to identify the Imperial Eggs in the cabinets. This helped to confirm that the gold egg bought by an American in the mid-West for its $14,000 scrap value, was indeed an Fabergé Imperial Egg.

1900

At the Exposition Internationale Universelle (World Exhibition) in Paris, although the House exhibited hors concours, it was awarded a gold medal and the city’s jewellers recognised Peter Carl Fabergé as maître. Additionally, he was decorated with the most prestigious of French awards – he was appointed a Knight of the Legion of Honour. Two of Carl’s sons and his Head Workmaster were also honoured. Commercially the Exposition was a great success and the firm acquired a great many orders and clients worldwide.

The company moved into purpose-built premises at 24 Bolshaya Morskaya containing workshops, a design studio, offices, Peter Carl’s apartment and of course a show room. The business was at the height of its success employing around 500 craftsmen and designers. It was the largest jewellery firm in Russia

1902

An exhibition of Fabergé objects and antique objects of vertue belonging to the Imperial Family received their first public exhibition in Russia at the St Petersburg mansion of Baron von Dervis.

1903 - 1906

The House of Fabergé expanded with a branch opening in London in 1903 and a branch in Kiev in 1906. Nicholas, the youngest of Peter Carl’s four sons (all of whom worked for the House), became one of the London branch managers.

WAR AND REVOLUTION

1914

The outbreak of the Great War. There was an initial fall in demand for luxury goods as well as a lack of precious metals. Fabergé produced copper articles such as cruets, plates, mugs and snuffboxes. The workshops also made syringes and equipment, and parts for the military, including grenades.

1915

As Russian capital tied in foreign operations had to be repatriated to Russia to finance the war effort, the Bond Street shop closed. However, trading continued.
Copper tea glass holder. During world war I Fabergé also made domestic items like this tea glass holder in copper, syringes and equipment and parts for the military, including grenades

1916

The House of Fabergé became a joint-stock company with a capital of 3 million roubles.

1917

The remaining stock of the London branch was sold to Lacloche Frères, the Paris jeweller. Lawyers were instructed to wind up the London business. Following the Russian Revolution, the House was taken over by a ‘Committee of the Employees of the Company K. Fabergé’.

1918

The House of Fabergé was nationalised. In early October its stock was confiscated.

THE FABERGÉS FLEE

1918 - 1920

In November, Peter Carl Fabergé left St Petersburg on the last diplomatic train for Riga from where he fled to Germany. In December, Eugène together with his mother, travelled in darkness by sleigh and on foot to Finland. The Bolsheviks imprisoned Agathon and Alexander, the Fabergés’ two middle sons.

In June 1920, Eugène travelled to Germany to take his father to Switzerland where other members of the family had taken refuge. Peter Carl Fabergé died in Pully (near Lausanne) in September.

1924

Eugène, together with his brother Alexander (who had managed to escape from the USSR when a friend bribed guards) settled in Paris. They establish Fabergé & Cie, which traded in and re-stored objects made by the House of Fabergé, as well as general jewellery and objets d’art. The pieces they made were clearly marked Fabergé, Paris so as to avoid any confusion with items made by the House in Russia.

THE FAMILY LOSES ITS NAME

1937

Sam Rubin, an American of Russian descent, started a perfume business. Upon the suggestion of his friend Dr Armand Hammer, who at the behest of Lenin became the Soviets’ first foreign concessionaire, branded his perfumes Fabergé and formed Fabergé Inc. This was done without the family’s permission.
Black and white image of Sam Rubin
Image of Fabergé Incorporated papers

1951

After discovering Rubin’s activities, the Fabergé family decided to settle out of court so as to avoid high legal fees. Rubin paid just US$25,000 to use their name solely for perfume.
Split Image – left side: Woman wearing tiger bodysuit. Text: Tigress. Because men are such animals. This provocative 1975 advertisment is also ground-breaking in another way. Featuring Lola Fatana, the American model and entertainer of African-Cuban descent, it is the first time that a person of African origin has advertised a product intended for all races. Right side image: Man in car looking a woman walking on street. Text: For men who like women. Shortly after launching male versions of its female perfumes, in a way that would not happen today. Fabergé launched its men’s grooming and fragrant products under the name Brut. In the 1970s the brand was endorsed by sportsmen ranging from Muhammad Ali to Barry Sheene. It is still sold today, but from 2008, not under the Fabergé brand.

1964 - 1989

Samuel Rubin sold Fabergé Inc to George Barrie’s cosmetic company Rayette for US$26 million. The combined company was called Rayette-Fabergé Inc. In 1971 the company’s name reverted to Fabergé Inc. in 1984 Fabergé Inc was sold for US$180 million, three years later Fabergé Inc acquired Elizabeth Arden for US$700 million.

In 1989 Unilever bought Fabergé Inc (including Elizabeth Arden) for US$1.55 billion. Noting that Sam Rubin had registered the name for jewellery in 1946, it registered the Fabergé name as a trademark across a wide range of merchandise internationally and granted licenses to third parties to produce a wide range of products under the Fabergé name. Additionally it changed the name of a subsidiary from Lever Brothers Limited to Lever Fabergé Limited, meaning that the name associated with Imperial Eggs appeared on a domestic cleaning range for use in lavatories, blocked drains, cleaning kitchen and bathrooms as well as washing machines.

THE RELAUNCH

2007

Fabergé Limited announces that it acquired the Fabergé trademarks, licenses and associated rights relating to the Fabergé name from Unilever. The Fabergé name is reunited with the Fabergé family. The Fabergé Heritage Council is established to guide the company in its pursuit of Fabergé’s original heritage of excellence in creativity, design and craftsmanship.

2009

At 9am on September 9th 2009 (09.09.09), Fabergé is re-launched with the introduction of the ‘Les Fabuleuses’ High Jewellery collection. By 31st December 2012, all the licenses granted to third parties had lapsed or been terminated and the name no longer appeared on cleaning products.
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