The story of the world's most famous jeweller and his priceless creations
This is the story of Faberge's Imperial Easter eggs - of their maker, of the tsars who commissioned them, of the middlemen who sold them and of the collectors who fell in love with them. It's a story of meticulous craftsmanship and unimaginable wealth, of lucky escapes and mysterious disappearances, and ultimately of greed, tragedy and devotion.
Moreover, it is a story that mirrors the history of 20th-century Russia - a satisfying arc that sees eggs made for the tsars, sold by Stalin, bought by Americans and now, finally, returned to post-communist Russia. There is also an intriguing element of mystery surrounding the masterpieces. Of the 50 "Tsar Imperial" eggs known to have been made, eight are currently unaccounted for, providing endless scope for speculation and forgeries.
This is the first book to tell the complete history of the eggs, encompassing the love and opulence in which they were conceived, the war and revolution that scattered them, and the collectors who preserved them.
Toby Faber was formerly Managing Director of the publishing house Faber & Faber. He was born in Cambridge in 1965, and now lives in London with his wife and daughter. His last book was Stradivarius, also published by Macmillan.
Section - i: Romanov family tree Section - ii: Faberge family tree Introduction - iii: Introduction
Chapter - 1:
Christ is risen!' Chapter - 2:A precious as an egg on Christ's own day'
Chapter - 3:
A continuation of the long funeral ceremonies' Chapter - 4:Utterly different in character, habits and outlook'
Chapter - 5:
The warm and brilliant shop of Carl Faberge' Chapter - 6:The ancestor who appeals to me least of all'
Chapter - 7:
We shall have to show dirty nappies' Chapter - 8:A good, religious, simple-minded Russian'
Chapter - 9:
The little one will not die' Chapter - 10:An unparalleled genius'
Chapter - 11:
Faberge has just brought your delightful egg' Chapter - 12:Everything seems sad'
Chapter - 13:
Guard it well. It is the last' Chapter - 14:This is life no more'
Chapter - 15:
You will have all of it when I am gone' Chapter - 16:Determining their fate irrevocably in a few moments'
Chapter - 17:
Pick out gold, silver and platinum from the articles of minimal museum value' Chapter - 18:I know that May was passionately fond of fine jewellery'
Chapter - 19:
Department stores - try the department stores' Chapter - 20:Old civilisations put to the sword'
Chapter - 21:
Turn of the century trinkets' Chapter - 22:When you viewed his Faberge collection, you were doing him a favour'
Chapter - 23:
He who dies with the most toys wins' Chapter - 24:Handle it and then question it; that thing is as right as rain'
Chapter - 25: `You can put all your eggs in one basket'
Section - iv: Afterword Section - v: Appendix - Full listing of the Imperial eggs Chapter - vi: Glossary Section - vii: Notes Section - viii: Bibliography Index - ix: Index Acknowledgements - x: Acknowledgements
Comprehensive history of the 50 extravagant baubles created between 1885 and 1917 as Easter gifts for the Russian royal family.It was a combination of luck and skill, writes Faber (Stradivari's Genius, 2005, etc.), that enabled Carl Faberge, one of many local artisans catering to the turn-of-the-century St. Petersburg aristocracy, to become "Jeweller to the Court" and creator of the elegant eggs synonymous with the prewar gilded era. In 1885, czarina Marie Fedorovna purchased Faberge cufflinks at a jewelry expo; that same year, Alexander III commissioned the first Faberge Easter egg for his wife. The czarina was delighted with the exquisite gift, which contained a golden yoke, a miniature imperial crown in diamonds and a ruby pendant. A tradition was born that two generations of czars would maintain for three decades. The eggs displayed astonishing craftsmanship and attention to detail, qualities that became Faberge hallmarks and resulted in the family-owned firm becoming the largest jewelry supplier in the world. It was their connection to the Romanovs, though, that marked the 50 imperial eggs as tokens of history. The years in which they were given saw ever-increasing strife and tragedy. As Russia devolved into poverty and hurtled toward revolution, the czar's regime displayed much pomp but little concern for the welfare of his people. The eggs became a symbol of ostentatious wealth with little utilitarian purpose; each year they grew more elaborate and personalized, thus providing a priceless glance into the lives of the doomed royal family. After the abdication of Nicholas II and the subsequent execution of the former czar, his wife and children in 1918, the eggs were seized and dispersed. By 1930, more than a dozen had emerged in the hands of private investors in the West; they have since been bought and sold by a variety of collectors, including Armand Hammer and Malcolm Forbes. In 2004, in a great show of nationalism, Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg purchased Forbes's entire Faberge collection for more than $90 million, reinforcing the Faberge brand and its importance to Russian history. Surprisingly fascinating. (Kirkus Reviews)
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