As Easter gifts go, one cannot get more extravagant than a pair of Fabergé eggs. Each year at Easter Czar Nicholas II of Russia commissioned his Imperial goldsmith, Peter Carl Fabergé, to design two elaborate Easter eggs to give as gifts: one to bestow upon his wife and one to give to his mother. Between 1880 and 1917 there were more than 60 decorative eggs created by Fabergé; 54 of those were the result of the Czar’s imperial commission.
Fabergé worked with dozens of his craftsmen to design and create unique eggs that would surprise and delight the Imperial Family each year at Easter. The commission gave Fabergé and his team the freedom to ignore questions of cost and time and to concentrate on the challenge of creating something new and unimagined for his patrons. The resulting artworks are proof that Fabergé met that challenge and far exceeded any expectations.
The eggs were made of the most precious materials available (porcelain, enamal, gold) and then encrusted with sapphires, rubies, diamonds, emeralds and crystals. The eggs often included hand-painted details and mechanical elements, such as inset time pieces or moveable parts that opened secret compartments or uncovered surprising stowaways: one egg opened to reveal a solid gold miniature replica of the Imperial carriage, completely studded with diamonds.
That such excess was encouraged by the Czar at a time when more than half of Russia was starving is unsettling, to say the least. However, the craftsmanship and artistry demonstrated by Fabergé and his team in creating these unsurpassed treasures must be regarded today as gifts to the entire world. They are among the most beautiful testaments to the art of handmade design and craftsmanship.
Their actual cost is inestimable and after the revolution, the eggs were dispersed throughout the world, ending up in museums and private collections. The last Fabergé egg to see the inside of an auction house fetched more than $16-million. Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg paid more than $100-million for a series of nine Fabergé eggs. The Queen of England owns several examples and the Kremlin Armoury has ten of the eggs in its collection. The others reside in museums throughout Europe and America and numerous, individual examples can be found in private collections. Below are five examples of Fabergé eggs.