A thing of beauty: The exquisite craft of Fabergé eggs

Words by
Sphere Life

16th December 2019

With their oval shape and fine detailing, these are one of the world’s most iconic jewels, but the enamelling behind each egg is a particular labour of love

With their delicate enamelling and bejewelled surfaces, they are instantly recognisable. Created for the wives and mothers of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsar Alexander III for Easter gifts, 50 Fabergé eggs were originally made. The maker of these fine pieces was Peter Carl Fabergé, who took over the family jewellery business in 1882. After a dormant period, with the name of the maison sold, the jewellery brand was reborn in 2007 and since then has been creating objet d’arts and jewellery using the fine skill of enamelling. All of the eggs in its Heritage Collection undergo this process, after being designed by in-house designer Liisa Tallgren.

The Heritage Collection draws inspiration from Fabergé’s original jewelled pieces. There are further options — clients can customise an egg, for example, by recreating it in a new colour, or they can go fully bespoke. Last year, the company received 450 enquiries — around one in five normally results in a project.

Craftsman and women trained in enamelling, guilloché and hand engraving create the eggs in their workshops in Europe. The eggs range from £2,040-£28, 200 in price and take a few days to make — although some of the most ambitious projects can take years. With the company’s motto “anything is possible” in mind, in 2017, Fabergé collaborated on a one-off egg with Qatar pearl merchants the Al Fardan family, using 20 craftspeople, 139 white pearls, 3,305 diamonds and a central 12.17ct pearl. 

The enamelling process for the pieces is highly skilled and is a craft very little altered from its origins — work is still done by hand using tools that would not have been out of place on a goldsmith’s bench 1,000 years ago. Colours are created by adding minerals, such as metal oxides. The enameller's skills are always tested: materials cannot be fully controlled, so there is always the risk that the final result will be unusable. “You need to keep in mind that enamel can break if hit against a hard surface so rings, bangles and pendants that are on a long chain may be more at risk,” says Tallgren.

“On the other hand, the colours of enamel will not fade over time and are not affected by daily chemicals such as those found in perfumes and lotions. It is a highly skilled operation, with the temperature and timings in the furnace both affecting the end result greatly.”