Fabergé family business returns to Russia after 86 years

The family business of renowned imperial Russian court jeweler Carl Fabergé has returned home after almost a century. Sarah Fabergé, Carl’s great-granddaughter and an internationally known designer, on March 18 officially opened the family’s first store in Russia since 1917. The store is located in St. Petersburg, just a few hundred meters from where Carl Fabergé was forced to give up his business to Bolshevik revolutionaries 86 years ago. The shop—called the “St. Petersburg Collection ‘Grand Gallery’”—sells the designs of Sarah and her father, Carl’s grandson Theo Fabergé, also a renowned artist. A second store is planned for Moscow.

The return to Russia has been three years in development, says Phillip Birkstein, chairman of London-based St. Petersburg Collections, which owns and distributes the works of Theo and Sarah Fabergé. The March opening, though unrelated, coincides with the recent purchase and return to Russia by Moscow oil baron Viktor Vekselberg of 10 Carl Fabergé Easter eggs once owned by U.S. financier Malcolm Forbes.

The return of Fabergé to St. Petersburg, former home of the family business and the Russian Czars, was something of a national event. Dr. Vadim Znaenemov, director of the Peterhof Palace, took part in the opening. Sarah Fabergé was the honored guest at a reception held at the former Parliament building, attended by several hundred people and shown on regional TV. She also was the focus of another TV show broadcast nationally. Weekend events included an opening celebration at the city’s sumptuous Astoria Hotel; Sarah Fabergé’s debut of her Rock Crystal Heart pendant; and the unveiling by the British consul to St. Petersburg of Theo Fabergé’s exquisite “Peter the Great Egg” in guilloché enamel. In 2003, Theo Fabergé also presented bejeweled Easter eggs, years in the making, to the city for its 300th anniversary.

The Fabergé jewelry business began in St. Petersburg in 1842, but it was Carl, who took it over in 1870, who brought fame and international renown to the Fabergé name. In the 1880s, Tsar Alexander III began the tradition of imperial Easter Eggs by Fabergé, which led European aristocracy to patronize the company. In 1906, Carl sent Nicholas, his youngest son, to London to run the firm’s only overseas branch. The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution toppled the Tsarist government and forced the closing of the Fabergé business. Carl Fabergé fled to Switzerland, where he died two years later. Three of his sons went to France, and Nicholas stayed in London. Theo, Nicholas’s only son, was born there in 1922. He inherited the family skill and artistry in creating eggs and other items from precious metals, wood, and ivory.

In 1984, Theo began producing limited editions for the international market and chose the name “St. Petersburg Collection” to honor his grandfather and the city where his family had been Imperial jewelers. (Legal use of the brand name “Fabergé” belongs to the Unilever Corp.) His daughter Sarah was inspired to follow in his footsteps while still a teenager, during her first visit to St. Petersburg—a graduation gift from her father. She was influenced by her heritage and the treasures of the city’s palaces and museums, especially Pavlovsk Palace, whose Zodiac ceiling later inspired her Zodiac collection of Easter Eggs.

For information about the St. Petersburg Collection in the United States, call (973) 786 5125.

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