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12 March 2018 / leggypeggy

Fabergé eggs are showstoppers

Lilies of the Valley Imperial egg (1898), Fabergé Museum

Lilies of the Valley Imperial egg (1898), the surprise at the top are small portraits of the Tsar and the two eldest children

The world owes Viktor Vekselberg a great big thank you! Oh, you’ve never heard of him? Neither had I, but in 2004 this Ukrainian–Russian billionaire businessman had the wisdom, foresight and money to buy a collection of Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs from the Forbes publishing family in New York.

As a result, he is the single largest owner of Fabergé eggs in the world, owning 15 of them (nine Imperial, two Kelch, and four other Fabergé eggs).

Vekselberg paid just over $100 million to buy the nine Imperial eggs. He says he bought them because they are important to Russian history and culture, and he believed them to be the best jewellery art in the world.

Duchess of Marlborough (1902), Fabergé Museum

Duchess of Marlborough (1902), not an Imperial egg

He also bought 180 other Faberge pieces (more about those in another post).

By 2013 and through his Link of Times foundation, Vekselberg had the eggs and other items on public display in the Fabergé Museum, which is housed in the Shuvaloy Palace, one of the most beautiful palaces in St Petersburg, Russia.

Mind you, renovations on the palace took six or seven years.

Blue Room, Fabergé Museum

The Blue Room houses the Fabergé eggs

Blue Room, Fabergé Museum

The Blue Room actually has some blue

So what makes these eggs so special?
Nothing prepared me for the spectacle of just how stunning these eggs are. Vekselberg is right when he describes them as the best jewellery art in the world.

The story of the eggs began in 1885, when Tsar Alexander III decided to give his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, an Easter egg. Peter Carl Fabergé was commissioned to make this first work, known as the Hen Egg (apologies for not getting a pic of this one). It’s an enamelled egg that opens to reveal a golden yolk. This opens to reveal a golden hen that also opens. The last ‘surprise’ is a tiny replica of the imperial crown plus a ruby pendant. These last two pieces have been lost.

Cockerel Imperial egg (1900), Fabergé Museum

Cockerel Imperial egg (1900),

Maria was so captivated by the gift that Alexander appointed Fabergé  ‘goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown’ and commissioned an egg for the next year. After that, it appears Fabergé had complete freedom to design all future Imperial Easter eggs. The only requirements were that each contain a surprise, and that each be unique.

The eggs have their own room—the Blue Room—in the museum, and each egg has its own glass case.

Coronation Egg (1897), Fabergé Museum

Coronation Imperial egg (1897), the ‘surprise’ is an exact replica of the coronation carriage

Order of St George (1916), Fabergé Museum

Order of St George Imperial egg (1916), the simplest of all the Imperial eggs

Some of the most significant Imperial eggs are the Coronation Egg (1897) made to mark the coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna, and Order of St George (1916) made during World War I. A replica carriage was the ‘surprise’ in the coronation egg. The Order of St George egg didn’t contain a surprise (war-time austerity), and was not designed by Fabergé, but followed the family’s instructions. I’ve read conflicting information about this egg. I’ll trust what’s posted in the museum—this is the last Imperial egg ever made and Nicholas II gave it to his mother, Empress Maria Fyodorovna.

Chanticleer Kelch egg (1904) Fabergé Museum

Chanticleer Kelch egg (1904), one of 12 eggs made for Siberian gold mine industrialist, Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch. These were gifts for his wife, Barbara

One of the most elaborate eggs is Lilies of the Valley (1898). Tsar Nicholas II gave this Art Nouveau egg to his wife, the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. Lilies of the valley were her favourite flower. The egg is made of gold, diamonds, rubies, pearls, glass, guilloche enamel, casting, stamping, engraving, gilding and watercolor.

The museum has five or six more rooms filled with other Fabergé treasures, and I’ll cover the in a separate post. The eggs deserve to be showcased alone.

I’ve added a caption (title and date made) to each egg pic (you may have to roll over the pics to see the words).

By the way, 57 of the 65 known Fabergé eggs still exist, and 43 of the 50 Imperial eggs survive.

Renaissance Imperial egg (1894), Fabergé Museum

Renaissance Imperial egg (1894)

Some tips about visiting museums
Arrive early and buy tickets in advance if you can. We got to the Fabergé Museum 20–30 minutes before opening time. We hadn’t bought tickets ahead of time (we weren’t sure we’d be able to go), but I think it is an online option. We were near the front of the queue and we whisked in quickly.

Start in the second room. Poor John has a tactic that works very well. Whenever we enter a museum, we head straight for the second room. Everyone else stops in the first room so it’s packed. If that’s where you start, you’ll jostle along with the ‘herd’ for the rest of the visit. Meanwhile, the second room is deserted.

Amazingly, the eggs were in the second room. We were practically the only people there for at least 20 minutes. We then stayed ahead of the crowd and, before leaving, we doubled back to see the treasures in room one. By then room two was packed and it would have been hard to get close to the eggs.

Two questions
Do you have tips for visiting museums, galleries and the like? If yes, please share. And do you have a favourite egg?

Bay Tree Imperial egg (1911), Fabergé Museum

Bay Tree Imperial egg (1911), also known as the Orange Tree Imperial egg


Leave a Comment
  1. beetleypete / Mar 12 2018 11:08 pm

    I saw some of these on display in The Hermitage in Leningrad, in the 1970s. I recall one that held a small train set, complete with dining car, the tables set for dinner with tiny plates and cutlery. It was behind a large magnifying glass, so visitors could see the detail. Wonderful craftsmanship, but also a symbol of the excesses of the Tsars.
    Best wishes, Pete.


    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:01 am

      You’re right, Pete, a prime symbol of the excesses of the Tsars. At least Vekselberg has had the generosity to share these exquisite pieces with the public and not lock them in a china cabinet at home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gerard oosterman / Mar 12 2018 11:28 pm

    A fabulous post, Peggy. I went to the Hermitage but missed out on the eggs at the Shuvaloy Palace
    If I can give a tip in visiting museums or galleries it would be to go to the exit of the gallery or museum and slowly and unobtrusively walk in backwards. Do this slowly with frequent stopping.

    It helps to pretend making notes on a pad as if describing the latest art work you saw before walking out. In fact, you are walking in without paying the entrance fee.
    It is a good experience .

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:02 am

      Good tip, Gerard, which can work if the entrance and exit are not in the same place. We couldn’t have pulled this off in any of the museums we visited in Russia.


  3. ralietravels / Mar 13 2018 12:00 am

    Wonderful. I was fortunate to see Malcolm Forbe’s collection once in Washington, D.C. in the early 1970s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:04 am

      Oh wow, how lucky you were to have seen them long before they moved to Russia.


  4. trE / Mar 13 2018 12:02 am

    Art, in all its forms is simply amazing. Peggy, these pictures are astounding! I wouldn’t even touch a Faberge’ egg. I’d be too afraid to handle it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:05 am

      I agree trE, dazzling to look at, dangerous to hold. I wonder how often they have to be dusted!

      Liked by 1 person

      • trE / Mar 13 2018 7:26 am

        That is a great question!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. gigglingfattie / Mar 13 2018 12:28 am

    ooo WOW! These are so beautiful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. koolkosherkitchen / Mar 13 2018 12:47 am

    Wonderful post, dear Peggy. I remember seeing some of them at the Hermitage in the early 70’s. They are certainly unique masterpieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:07 am

      I had only ever seen them in photos and feel so fortunate to have now seen them in person. True masterpieces.

      Liked by 1 person

      • koolkosherkitchen / Mar 14 2018 8:53 am

        Photos don’t really convey the miniature size of them. No matter how much it is stressed, you don’t really feel truly astonished until you see them “live,” with all the incredible details!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 12:55 pm

        So true. The eggs are only a few inches tall.


  7. pvcann / Mar 13 2018 1:13 am

    I have only seen these in photos, and yours are wonderful, enjoyed the post very much. I’ll take the Chanticleer, because it is blue and has a clock 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:08 am

      I like the way you think. The Chanticleer is beautiful and at least a little bit practical.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. WidgersWonderings / Mar 13 2018 1:33 am

    WOW! That is what all the fuss is about! Beautifully intricate. Thanks for letting us travel with you from Nebraska.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:37 am

      Always delighted to have another travelling companion, especially one from my home state of Nebraska.


  9. weggieboy / Mar 13 2018 1:48 am

    The second room strategy is brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. MichaelStephenWills / Mar 13 2018 3:02 am

    Excellent info and pics. Viktor Vekselberg got his $$$ from where? He’s a Putin crony.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:14 am

      He seems to be a philanthropist, even though he is ‘close to the Moscow Kremlin’, and oversees projects to modernise the country’s economy. Vekselberg’s father was a Ukrainian Jew and his mother was Russian. According to Wikipedia, he donated $4.5 million to the construction of the $50 million Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, and is chairman of the museum’s board of trustees. He finances the restoration and construction of synagogues in Russia, including the construction of the Choral Synagogue in Saratov.


      • MichaelStephenWills / Mar 13 2018 11:49 pm

        Be that as it may, Vekselberg consolidated his wealth in the rape of the country during the Yeltsin years, stealing vast fortune in aluminum interests for a pittance. Then sold it off (he bought back into Rusal, with a 7% interest in 2017). What Vekselberg has given away is a pittance compared to someone like Andrew Carnegie who gave away 90% of his wealth to causes for the improvement of American society.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 2:57 pm

        Yes, Carnegie is the true philanthropist.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. dfolstad58 / Mar 13 2018 3:28 am

    Gorgeous, and enjoyed my museum trip this morning with you

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Andrew Petcher / Mar 13 2018 3:44 am

    A lovely collection, I wish I had one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:16 am

      Yes, but you’d have clean it, insure it and keep the kids from playing with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. sidilbradipo1 / Mar 13 2018 3:51 am

    Impressive photos, astonishing and breathtaking Eggs collection ❤
    I do adore those masterpieces, all of them are unique and splendid 😀
    Happy Monday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:17 am

      It’s hard to believe that they are so small and yet so detailed.


  14. Invisibly Me / Mar 13 2018 4:15 am

    Wow, very exquisite! I’m always fascinated by these, the history and heritage and beauty of them, old and new. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 7:18 am

      It’s remarkable that Fabergé could envision such pieces and then make them happen.


  15. Emma Cownie / Mar 13 2018 4:22 am

    These are astounding objects, very beautiful. I once walked along the Seine in Paris looking at the massive palaces and thought, no wonder there was a revolution soon after these were built. Same goes for these marvels.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Brian Lageose / Mar 13 2018 7:56 am

    All of these are beautiful, but for some reason I’m drawn to the last photo, the Bay Tree/Orange Tree Imperial. I’m not sure if this is because of the gorgeous shades of green or because of the intriguing concept of an “egg”…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 9:09 am

      I think the tree is my favourite too. I’m a sucker for green. Also like the Lilies of the Valley, but what a pain to dust!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Empty Nest Adventures / Mar 13 2018 10:36 am

    Very, very cool!! I was at the Hermitage in 1990 and saw some but I was only 20 and didn’t fully appreciate what I was seeing.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Julie Manley / Mar 13 2018 11:01 am

    The eggs are absolutely exquisite, particularly the Art Deco Lilly of the Valley one. Thanks for the heads up about the second room, great advice if the museum is very popular.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 11:07 am

      We use the second room tactic often at the National Gallery’s special exhibitions.


  19. Alison and Don / Mar 13 2018 12:38 pm

    Oh they are exquisite! It must have been amazing to see the real thing. And I love Poor John’s tip about visiting museums.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 3:08 pm

      It was incredible to see them in person, especially because then you can walk all the way around them.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Chris Riley / Mar 13 2018 3:06 pm

    I think if I had to choose one it would be the Chanticleer Kelch egg. I’m sure they look amazing when seeing the real thing, and I’m sure pictures don’t do them justice at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 13 2018 3:10 pm

      The Chanticleer is a gorgeous egg, and extra special because it i also a clock. Thinking back, I wish I’d taken pics of all four angles of each egg.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. thewonderer86 / Mar 13 2018 5:44 pm

    All of your posts on Russia are making me want to go more and more – but I’d travel there simply to see these exquisite eggs and nothing else!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. a mindful traveler / Mar 13 2018 9:15 pm

    Oh wow…these eggs are simply stunning Peggy. I would love to see this exhibition! My fav is the Lillie’s of the Valley 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Jolandi Steven / Mar 13 2018 10:34 pm

    These are gorgeous, Peggy.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. derrickjknight / Mar 13 2018 10:56 pm

    A wonderfully described and illustrated catalogue. On our recent visit to the Heath Robinson exhibition, without knowing of Poor John’s strategy, I followed his system by accident. I didn’t notice the first room which was, indeed, packed, until almost closing time when the crowd had thinned out a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Osyth / Mar 14 2018 12:46 am

    These dazzling bedazzling little delights may be representative of hideous and ultimately fatal excess on the part of the Tsar but sometimes something is so exquisite that it is right to allow them on the basis that beauty and ingenuity are rarely so aligned and that there are times when one should just allow indulgent delight to assail the senses. Faberge and his incredible skill, wit and eye for the impossibly beautiful in ornamentation will always be king of that hill for me. Thank you, Peggy for this stunning post 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 2:06 pm

      You are most welcome. And you are right about the fact that these should exist. Fabergé’s skill deserves to be showcased. Thank goodness, Vekselberg realised that they should be before the public.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. theburningheart / Mar 14 2018 4:04 am

    Since my knowledge of the Faberge eggs, has been a curiosity of mine to look at them regardless of the negative historical baggage, associated with them, although, an excess that precipitated the end of Monarchy as a ruling system, not only in Russia, but around the World.
    Great post Peggy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 2:10 pm

      Thanks. Their historical baggage cannot be ignored. The monarchy ended, but luckily for us, most of the eggs survive.


  27. Phil Huston / Mar 14 2018 7:14 am

    Not a snake fan but the Duchess of Marlborough wins for sheer tasteful presentation. Not over or under done and it jumps off the page. Renaissance Imperial egg runs a close second. the best way to go to a museum is sans small children. Next, like you, walk it backwards. I’ve been so close to Turner and Monet I could almost smell the sketch books. Something you can;t do with the herd…Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 2:14 pm

      The Duchess of Marlborough and Renaissance are both dazzlingly gorgeous. So glad we started in that room and that I could get close enough to really capture them digitally. The herds came later!


  28. theorangutanlibrarian / Mar 14 2018 8:18 am


    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sartenada / Mar 14 2018 9:03 pm

    Wonderful post. Fabergé eggs are incredible beautiful. We were lucky in Finland to see some of them in 2006 in an exhibition. Thank You for this post and presenting these gorgeous photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 9:15 pm

      So glad you like the post and so glad you had a chance to see some of these in Finland. I didn’t know they ‘travelled’.


  30. The Year I Touched My Toes / Mar 14 2018 9:10 pm

    Hi Peggy, Thank you for sharing these beautiful pieces. My favourite is the St George egg because of its simplicity and elegance but the ultramarine blue in the Kelch egg is spectacular. The lilly of the valley egg is lovely too. I’m with you on missing the first room. It works for me. I avoid rooms with lots of little pieces on the wall and accompanying notes. I want to be looking at bigger pieces that don’t have huge historical notes attached. But I am thinking more of galleries with that comment. Louise

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 14 2018 9:18 pm

      The St George egg has the best story, but I love them all. Still dithering about a favourite.


  31. Superduque777 / Mar 15 2018 1:33 am

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Sy S. / Mar 15 2018 12:40 pm

    Every Faberge Egg is Beautiful In Its Own Way!

    I like all the eggs, however, the Renaissance Imperial Egg stands out for the uniform pattern on top and around the egg. How do they craft such patterns and not make any mistakes? I also like the Bay Tree Imperial Egg (Orange Tree Imperial Egg).. How can they securely attach each green leaf and tiny flower to each other?

    Thanks Peggy for your photography of the “best jewelry art in the world.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 15 2018 6:43 pm

      You are most welcome Sy. I like the Renaissance Egg because it is the one that looks the most like an actual egg. As to how they manage to do this work, I can’t even imagine.


  33. jeanleesworld / Mar 15 2018 1:15 pm

    So very stunning! This always depresses me a little, that all the technology out there today is going to distract us from developing the attention and focus needed to have such fine skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 15 2018 8:48 pm

      What an insightful comment, Jean. I wonder if anyone could make these today?

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Mar 15 2018 8:52 pm

        Precisely. There’s such a demand for the utmost command of one’s fingers and senses with this kind of work. Who teaches craft on this scale any more?

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Mar 15 2018 9:32 pm

        I suppose part of the problem is that no one is able to/wants to pay for this kind of creativity.


  34. Curt Mekemson / Mar 16 2018 3:19 am

    I could see our grandkids tearing them open to get the prize. 🙂 Whoops, wrong image. They are quite elegant, Peggy. –Curt


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