The Fascinating History of Faberge Eggs

A cop of an 1897 Faberge egg
Jonathan Kitchen / Getty Images

The House of Faberge jewelry firm was founded in 1842 by Gustav Faberge. The company is best known for creating jeweled Easter eggs between 1885 and 1917, several of which were given as gifts to Russian czars Nicholas II and Alexander III. This was during the tenure of Gustav's son Peter, who was the member of the Faberge family who put the company on the map, so to speak. 

Before producing its famed eggs, Faberge had the honor of using the family crest of the Romanovs in his company logo. It started in 1882 at the Pan-Russian Exhibition in Moscow. Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Czar Alexander III, purchased a pair of cufflinks from the company for her husband. From then on, Faberge's customers included the rich and noble.

Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs

In 1885, Faberge won the Gold Medal at an exhibition in Nuremberg for replicas of the antique treasures of Kerch. This also was the year the company produced its first Imperial egg. The beautifully simple egg opened up to reveal a "yolk." Inside the yolk was a golden hen and inside the hen was a diamond miniature of the crown and a tiny ruby egg.

That first egg was a gift from Alexander II to Czarina Maria. It reminded her of home and each year thereafter, the czar commissioned a new egg and gave it to his wife during Russian Orthodox Easter. The eggs became elaborately more jeweled every year, conveying historical meaning, and each one had a hidden surprise.

From 1895 to 1916, Alexander's successor, Nicholas II, gifted two Easter eggs each year, one to his wife and one to his mother. A total of 50 Imperial eggs were made for the Russian czars, but several have been lost to history. 

Imperial Eggs Return to Russia

Malcolm Forbes had the largest privately owned collection of Faberge eggs and after he died his heirs authorized Sotheby's (in 2004) to auction off his large Faberge collection.

But before the auction took place, a private sale took place and the entire collection was bought by Victor Vekselberg and taken back to Russia.

Not All Eggs Are Faberge

Collectors should beware of advertisements for Faberge eggs or Faberge reproductions. Unless it's been made by an authorized company, it should not be called Faberge. Often companies will get around this by calling their eggs "Faberge style."

The only company licensed and authorized to reproduce the Imperial eggs is Faberge World. They also have an authorized collector's society. There also are authorized reproductions of the Imperial eggs, eggs created by the descendants of Carl Faberge and eggs made by the company authorized to use the name Faberge. 

Descendants of Peter Carl Faberge also create eggs in the Faberge tradition for the St. Petersburg Collection. If you're intrigued by the history of Faberge, be sure to read the history of the Faberge family on the website. It's the stuff of good mystery novels and includes information on the copyright and trademark of the Faberge name.