A Fabergé egg is one of a series of jewelry Easter eggss made by Peter Carl Fabergé of the Fabergé company for the Russian Tsars between 1885 and 1917. The eggs are among the masterpieces of the jeweller's art.
Fabergé (or more accurately, his goldsmiths) made the first egg in 1885. It was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III of Russia as an Easter surprise for his wife Maria Federovna. On the outside it looked like an simple egg of white enamelled gold, but it opened up to reveal a golden yolk. The yolk itself had a golden hen inside it, which in turn had a tiny crown with a ruby hanging inside, reminiscent of the matryoshka nesting dolls.
The tsarina was so delighted by this gift that Alexander appointed Fabergé a "Court Supplier" and commissioned an Easter gift each year thereafter, stipulating only that it be unique and contain a surprise. Nicholas II continued the tradition, expanding it to include an annual gift for his wife Alexandra Fedorovna as well as his now-widowed mother.
As the House of Fabergé prospered (due to in no small part to the cachet of imperial patronage), the preparation of the eggs came to take up an entire year; once a concept was chosen, dozens of artisans worked to assemble the project.
The themes and appearance of the eggs varied wildly. For instance, on the outside, the Trans-Siberian Railway Egg of 1900 was dominated by a dull metallic gray band with a map of the railway's route, but inside it had an entire tiny train in gold.
50 eggs were produced in all. The Order of St. George Egg left Russia with Maria Federovna in 1918, but the rest remained, forgotten in the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Several disappeared in the looting, and the rest were boxed up in the vaults of the Kremlin until 1930, after which Stalin had 14 sold in western art auctions to raise cash, some for as little as 400 US$. Many of these were bought by Armand Hammer.
At present, just 10 eggs are still in Russia, all on display at the Kremlin Armory Museum. Another nine are in the Forbes Museum Collection in New York, with more in the Virginia Museum of Arts, New Orleans Museum of Art, and other museums around the world. Four eggs are in private collections, and eight are still missing.
In the modern day, a number of companies, including Victor Mayer, the inheritor of the Fabergé brande, offer "Fabergé eggs" whose designs are inspired by the originals.
List of Fabergé eggs