A Fabergé egg is the artifact at the center of The Zanzibar Marketplace Job. In the story, Maggie Collins, Nate's ex-wife, is accused of stealing a highly enameled blue Faberge egg from the Kiev Museum of Art. The team must work with their arch-nemesis, James Sterling, to rescue Maggie and return the egg to the museum.
So named because they were crafted by the House of Fabergé in St. Petersburg, Fabergé eggs are highly valued artworks made in two sizes: large eggs typically made as Easter gifts for the members of the House of Romanov, the Russian royal family, and small charm-sized eggs, either enameled or made of hardstone, which could be worn singly or in groups. Although strongly associated with the Russian royal family, Fabergé made a small number of eggs for other private clients, including Consuelo Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlborough.
The practice of giving eggs at Easter, representing rebirth and new life, is a long-standing tradition in the Russian Orthodox Church. Russian families often paint highly colored chicken eggs, which are exchanged with family members. Among the Russian royal family, more elaborate jeweled or enameled eggs made by the court jewelers were exchanged. The tradition of giving Fabergé eggs as gifts began with Tzar Alexander III, and continued with his son, Tzar Nicholas II, who gave some of the most extravagant of Fabergé's eggs to his wife, the Tzarina Alexandra Fedorovna.
An example of these eggs is the Rose Trellis Egg. Made principally of turned metal covered with guilloche enamel, rose cut diamonds, enameled roses and gold, it was presented to the Tzarina on Easter, 1907, celebrating the birth of the Tzarevich Alexi Nicholaievich, born three years previously during the Franco-Prussian War. Unlike many royals of the time, Nicholas and Alexandra married for love, and had a close, if extravagant, family life with their five children. The eggs were a rich example of Nicholas' affection for his wife. Faberge eggs traditionally opened to reveal a rich lining of enamel or fabric, and a small gift; the Rose Trellis egg contained diamond necklace with a framed miniature of the Tzarevich, now lost.
To the Russian royals, these gifts were symbols of love and held strong religious significance. But to the Bolsheviks, whose revolution would result in the deaths of the Russian royal family a few years later, they symbolized the excesses of the Russian aristocracy. Despite the Bolsheviks efforts to eradicate all traces of the aristocracy, 42 of the 50 eggs known to have been made survive, along with designs for four more for Easter 1917. Many of them are in American and European museums, or in private collections. Should one come on the market, its value would easily exceed $1 million.
Small Egg CharmsEditThe Houses of Fabergé produced hundreds of small egg charms, given as Easter gifts by the Russian aristocracy. The charms were fashioned from enameled metal, often set with stones and trimmed in gold. Other eggs were crafted from hardstone such as cinnabar, sodalite, malachite or lapis lazuli, frequently in the form of whimsical animals suggesting the shape of an egg. One of the largest collections of these small eggs was that of Queen Marie of Romania (born Princess Marie of Edinburgh, daughter of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandra of Russia), now on display at the Maryhill Museum, near Portland, Oregon.
The House of FabergéEdit
The House of Fabergé was founded in St. Petersburg, Russia's imperial city, by Gustav Fabergé. Opened in 1842, the shop was a fashionable jewelers and manufacturer of luxury goods, providing one-of-a-kind pieces to the Russian aristocracy. Although Gustav was Russian, he added an accent to his last name in an effort to make it appear more French at a time when French was the language of the Russian court.Ownership of the firm passed to Gustav's son, Peter Carl in 1882. It was under Carl's stewardship that the firm created many of the Faberge eggs purchased by the Russian royal family. A master goldsmith, Carl's work restoring items in the Hermitage museum brought him to the attention of Tzar Alexander III. The House of Fabergé received its first commission for an Imperial Easter egg in 1885, along with an appointment as Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown. By 1887, Carl was given complete freedom of design and began to create increasingly elaborate eggs. In addition to the eggs, The House of Fabergé created small hardstone animal sculptures, many of which are in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II as well as pieces fashioned to resemble small vases of flowers. These pieces were sought after not only by the Russian aristocracy, but all over Europe, and by wealthy Americans such as Marjorie Merriweather Post.
In addition to the eggs and hardstone animals, the House of Fabergé sold a complete line of enameled and jeweled luxury items, including picture frames, cigarette cases, clocks, desk sets, dresser sets and other small items used by wealthy men and women of the day. They also manufactured an extensive line of jewelry, notably small pins resembling real flowers.
The firm also branched out, opening shops in Moscow and London; Carl's sons later opened a shop in Paris as a direct competitor to Cartier Jewelers. The company was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918, and the Faberge family were forced to flee to safety in Finland, never to return to Russia. The last branch of the firm, in Paris, closed in 2001.