Although not a jewelry designer himself, Carl Fabergé was an enormously gifted man who was able to harness the great talents of those working under him—always toward the ultimate goal of creating dazzlingly crafted jewelry and metalwork, the likes of which the world may never again see.
Born in Saint Petersburg in 1846, (Peter) Carl Fabergé was the son of established Russian jeweler Gustav Fabergé, who allowed the young Carl to begin his apprenticeship at the age of 16. Eventually Carl assumed control his father’s business, and was joined by his brother Agathon in 1882. That same year, recognition spread rapidly as the Fabergé house seized the Gold Medal at the Pan-Russian exhibition, attracting the eye of Tsar Alexander III’s wife.
A consummate perfectionist, Fabergé quickly became first-jeweler to the Russian royals. He achieved his greatest fame for the Imperial Easter Eggs, which were created between 1884 and 1917. Alexander III commissioned 10 as gifts for his wife between 1884 and 1917. The remaining 46 were commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II as presents for his mother and wife.
By 1914, Carl Fabergé had some 300 craftsmen under his direction in St. Petersburg, and another 200 in his Moscow workshop. The House of Fabergé had opened branches in London, Kiev, and, Odessa; and its founder was regularly traveling to Paris, Rome, and the Far East to satisfy the demand for his spectacular creations.
Perhaps Fabergé’s greatest artistic achievement was in his mastery of enameling techniques. As a young man, Fabergé had diligently studied the techniques of 18 th century French masters, and later built upon that foundation. The company easily surpassed all competitors with a spectacular 140+ shades of enamel, including new colors such as oyster and a pink variant of mother-of-pearl. It also experimented with gold hues, rendering subtle tones of blue, green, red, and orange gold.
Unfortunately, the onset of the First World War brought on a period of privation that seriously impacted the Fabergé house. Long tied to the fortunes of the imperial family, its business collapsed with the 1917 October Revolution. After the murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family, Fabergé fled to Switzerland, where he died in 1920.