Absolutely Fabergé: Exquisite creations get rare showing

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A hundred of Imperial Russia's most dazzling masterpieces are to be exhibited at Buckingham Palace

The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress was supposed to be the star attraction when the Buckingham Palace State Rooms open to the public next week.

That creation will be outshone, though, by 100 masterpieces from the world's finest collection of Fabergé, as the Royal Family shares its fascination with a jewellery brand famed for its exquisite design and craftsmanship.

Dazzling Imperial Eggs, cigarette cases, animal sculptures and desk clocks, collected by six generations of family members from Queen Victoria to the Prince of Wales, will be placed on display in the Royal Fabergé collection.

The British Royal Family's passion for Fabergé was sparked by their dynastic links with the doomed Romanovs, who commissioned Peter Carl Fabergé to produce eggs for Russia's rulers from 1885 until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

The prized item in the Buckingham Palace exhibition is the 1914 Mosaic Imperial Egg, originally Tsar Nicholas II's Easter gift to his wife in 1914. It was confiscated during the Revolution and purchased by King George V in 1933, at a London jeweller's called Cameo Corner, at "half-price" for £250.

Made from tiny cut emeralds, rubies and diamonds, the egg includes portraits of the five children of Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.

Caroline De Guitaut, curator of the Royal Collection, said: "It's an extraordinary piece of work because the tiny diamonds and rubies are fitted into a cut platinum mesh."

The exhibition also includes the 1910 Colonnade Egg, bought in 1944 to cheer up Queen Elizabeth's wartime shelter room at Buckingham Palace.

Ms De Guitaut said: "Fabergé has become a popular phenomenon because of the extraordinary technical expertise of the works, which has never been replicated, with the abrupt downfall of the Romanov dynasty adding extra allure. It's an exciting proposition for the Royal Collection."

Today's Windsors have been priced out of the market for Fabergé, which has suffered a tortuous history since Carl Fabergé's workshop was nationalised and its stock confiscated in 1918. At its peak, Fabergé's business employed 500 of the best jewellers, stone-cutters and craftsmen. The first of the 50 legendary Imperial Faberge Eggs was the Hen Egg of 1885, with the Steel Military Egg of 1916 being the last completed.

However Fabergé's Eggs for the Tsar were a loss-leader for his real business, producing expensive gifts for a new class of nouveau riche, Russian millionaires. His workshop produced 155,000 individual pieces but each was unique as Fabergé vowed never to repeat himself.

After the revolution, the Fabergé family lost control over the company name, which was acquired by a US toiletries company in 1964. The Fabergé name suffered the indignity of being used to sell Brut deodorant.

The brand has now been revived as a luxury jeweller with the family's co-operation, selling necklaces with precious stones for up to $7 million.

But its most valuable Imperial works are the subject of a bidding war between modern-day Tsars, who want to return Fabergé's eggs to mother Russia.

Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian-based, Ukraine-born oligarch, is now the biggest individual owner of eggs, with 15, having paid $100 million to buy nine from Malcolm Forbes, the publishing billionaire.

According to court papers, Vekselberg had intended to give the entire Fabergé brand to his wife as a Christmas present. He is in dispute with Brian Gilbertson, a South African mining mogul, who bought Fabergé four years ago.

Gilbertson has opened new Fabergé stores and said he hopes to restore the brand to its former glory. He has announced the creation of 12 new unique pendant eggs costing up to £375,000 each and hopes to turn the jeweller into a $1 billion business.

Gilbertson faces competition from another Russian, Alexander Ivanov, 49, who now owns the world's largest Fabergé jewellery collection, worth an estimated £1.2 billion.

Ivanov placed his collection on display in Baden Baden, Germany, at his own "Fabergé Museum". That prompted legal action from Gilbertson's company, which accused Ivanov of breaching the Fabergé copyright.

The Royal Fabergé exhibition, which opens on July 23, includes pieces acquired during the reign of the current Queen, including a clock that she bought in the 1950s and a crystal inkwell presented to then Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at their 1947 wedding.

The Prince of Wales has includeda gift from his 1981 wedding to Diana, Princess of Wales and a letter opener fashioned as a silver oar.

Alexander Ivanov

There are fears that the priceless Fabergé collection may not be entirely safe in Alexander Ivanov's hands. The Onassis Buddha, snapped up by the billionaire art collector for £1.6m, was broken after a fall in Ivanov's Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. The statue, once owned by the Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, lost one of its hands.

In 2007 Ivanov, who made his fortune importing televisions to Russia, bought for £9m the 1902 Fabergé egg made as an engagement gift to Baron Edouard de Rothschild, at Christie's in London.

The gold-and-pink enamel egg features a clock and a diamond-set cockerel that flaps its wings on the hour.

Arts and Entertainment
The crowd enjoy Latitude Festival 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn