Faberge eggs were an important Easter tradition for the Romanovs. Today, Faberge eggs are priceless masterpieces and reminders of Imperial Russia.
Priceless masterpieces, opulent symbols of Easter, or fancy, useless trinkets, Faberge eggs have meant different things to different people. To collectors, they are precious, rare, and highly prized. To Stalin and his lackeys, they were reminders of Imperial excess. And to the Russian royal family, they were precious gifts commemorating Easter and an important family tradition.
This tradition was begun in 1885 by Tsar Alexander III, who commissioned Peter Carl Faberge’s workshop to create a special Easter egg for his wife, Maria Fedorovna. As a special gift produced for the most important holiday on the Russian Orthodox calendar, this egg contained nested surprises. The so called “Hen Egg” opened to reveal a ruby contained in a small replica of a crown, which was then nestled in a gold chicken resting in a golden yolk. Maria Fedorovna was delighted by this gift.
After Alexander’s death in 1894, his son Nicholas II assumed the throne and continued the Faberge egg tradition, this time ordering two eggs—one for his mother, Maria Fedorovna, and one for his German wife, Alexandra Fedorovna.
Faberge’s workshop would continue to produce Faberge eggs until 1917 Each Faberge egg depicted a different event or theme in Russia’s history. For example, the Tsarevich egg of 1912 honored male heir to the Romanov throne. This egg opened to reveal a portrait of the Russian prince. There are also eggs that represent the Kremlin, the royal yacht, palaces, and even the Trans-Siberian Railway.
Faberge was forced to flee Russia when the Tsar and his family were shot in 1917 and Russia was overcome by revolutionary fervor.
When the royal palace was plundered, the Bolsheviks packed up the Faberge eggs or sold them to collectors abroad. During this chaotic period, many of the eggs (or their surprise contents) were lost. Others can be found in private collections, like the Forbes collection, or in museums.