Easter is only a few days away and we can see displayed everywhere, the joyful and colourful Easter eggs that we’ll exchange with our loved ones as a symbol of renewed life this Sunday.
In the Imperial Russia of Tsar Alexander III, things were no different. So in 1885, wanting to surprise his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, the Tsar ordered from a young and talented jeweller, Carl Fabergé, a special Easter egg. It had to be a very special gift indeed since that year they were celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Imperial couple.
Fabergé created what seemed at first to be a normal enameled egg but when the Empress opened it, she found a surprise inside, a golden yolk, that when opened, contained a golden hen that when opened, contained a miniature of the royal crown carved in a diamond and a ruby egg, so one can say that this first Fabergé Easter egg is the ancestor of our Kinder Egg!
The Empress, of course, was absolutely delighted with her gift. So delighted in fact, that the Tsar continued offering his wife each year a special and unique jewelled Easter egg that Fabergé would make in gold, precious stones and pearls.
After the Tsar’s death, his son and new Tsar, Nicholas II, kept up the Easter tradition his father had started and carried on commissioning the opulent Faberge Easter eggs, one for his mother and one for his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna. Between 1885 and 1917 ( when the revolution ended with the lives of the Tsar and his entire family ) a total of 50 Imperial eggs were made under the close supervision of Carl Fabergé. Year after year, the eggs became more and more fantastic in order to keep surprising the Imperial Family. These works of art decorated with intricate and extravagant miniatures of the imperial life showed such amazing craftsmanship that Faberge’s workshop soon became the world-famous House of Fabergé.
The “Memory of Azov, for example, came with an impressive miniature in gold and platinum of the Russian naval ship Parmiat Azova, another egg is a miniature of the Kremlin! One of the Easter eggs has incrusted on it 1000 diamonds and 500 pearls, others have miniature paintings and portraits and so on.
After the revolution, the Bolsheviks sold some eggs separating the shells from their contents to get more money off it, this is why it’s almost impossible to find and put all the pieces back together, although the third Imperial egg was found in 2012 at an American’s house after he had bought it at an antique market and later discovered thanks to Google, that his little egg was worth 33 million dollars!
From the 50 Imperial Easter eggs produced by Fabergé ( although some say they were 52), only 42 are known to still exist and are worth millions each. Most of them are at the Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg, including the first one, the Hen Egg, others are at the Kremlin, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 3 are with the British Royal Family and some are with private collectors.
If like me, you think that the odds of coming across one of the missing eggs at antique markets are next to zero, I have good news for you: you too can now find your own Fabergé Easter Egg, just hurry up and join Fabergé’s Egg Hunt.