In the spring of 1885 when Tsar Alexander III and his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, celebrated their 20th anniversary of their betrothal, the Tsar decided to kill two birds with one stone by giving his wife an Easter egg.
In Russia, Easter isn’t just any holyday but the most joyful celebration of those with the Orthodox faith. After devout visits to the church, families gather to exchange gifts of decorated eggs, symbols of renewed life and hope.
The Tsar needed a truly special gift, 20th anniversary and all, so he placed an order with a young jeweler, Peter Carl Fabergé, whose beautiful creations have recently caught Maria’s eye.
On Easter morning, Fabergé delivers to the palace what appears to be a simple enameled egg. But to the delight of the Empress, inside is a golden yolk; within the yolk is a golden hen; and concealed within the hen is a diamond miniature of the royal crown and a tiny ruby egg – both now lost to history.
Apparently, Empress Maria was so pleased that the Tsar appointed Fabergé ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’. The following year Alexander III commissioned another egg and after that Peter Carl Fabergé was given complete freedom to create the eggs in whichever way he desired. After this the eggs became more and more elaborate.
According to Fabergé family tradition the form the eggs would take were secret, the only requirement was that each egg should contain a surprise.
The Eggs that Faberge created for the royalty were extra-large and called “Imperial Eggs”. Of the 65 known large Fabergé eggs 57 have survived to the present day.
Ten of the Imperial Easter Eggs are displayed at the Kremlin Armoury Museum, Moscow in Russia. An auction of 9 Fabergé eggs was held at Sotheby’s in 2004 though the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg purchased the collection in its entirety before the auction could even begin – the sum estimated between $90 and $120 million. Single eggs sell for at least $10 million dollars, pretty serious money for a jewelry egg.
I have a hard time expressing the feelings I get from watching the different eggs. Undoubtedly amongst the most visually enticing items I have ever laid my eyes upon.
Author: Olle Elander Wistén