Monthly Archives: December 2014

The book trade and fabulous Fabergé

Fabergé store

Fabergé’s store in St. Petersburg. Public domain image courtesy of Alex Bakharev, Wikimedia Commons.

Browsing around a used book bookstore is a real treat for me. Although I’ve nothing against other bookstores that sell the new stuff (I frequently pop into a local Barnes & Noble to see my book reviews in copies of Military History magazine), a shop that sells used books has its own homey, comfortable atmosphere.

A couple of used bookstores in my area have a trading program. You bring in the books that you don’t want any more, and you can trade the book for cash or store credit. I cashed in some of my store credit yesterday to buy a book called First Impressions: Carl Fabergé by Geza von Habsburg.

For me, Carl Fabergé was the ultimate craftsman (how can you not love the fabulous bejeweled Easter eggs and other decorative items he created??), so I thought it would be fun to learn more about his background and works. The book does not disappoint. Some of the more interesting tidbits from it:

1) Making jewelry and other objets d’art was the family business. Fabergé had to start as an apprentice with tasks such as sweeping floors and running errands.

2) Hinges in Fabergé’s gold boxes were invisible. These boxes are so well constructed that they are virtually airtight, so they’ll stay closed even when turned upside down.

3) Fabergé insisted on high quality, novelty and originality. If Fabergé didn’t approve of a piece made by his employees, he’d bring a hammer down on it and smash it. (Whoa. Months of work down the tube.)

4) Although much of Fabergé’s work went to the Imperial Family of Russia, he had numerous clients in other countries. One of them, Emmanuel Nobel of Sweden, would buy Fabergé trinkets and hide them in dinner napkins for the females in the dinner parties he gave. (Now that’s MY kind of party host! I bet he was a popular man.)

5) The book discusses the Romanov family, since his history is tied to theirs. The book has some nice insights about the young tsarvich Alexei, so it’s easy to see what kind of teen he was — a fun-loving, well-mannered and educated boy. (Poor kid, to meet such a tragic end. I sometimes wonder what kind of man he would have been.)

6) The best part about the book has large color photographs of his work. (Hey, if I can’t own an Imperial egg, I can at least enjoy the photos.)

CNN did a story in March 2014 about a Midwest man who bought a Fabergé egg at a flea market, hoping to recycle the metal for $500. Thank goodness the man checked Google first — the egg was one of the missing Imperial eggs and worth $33 million! Not bad, hmm?

Here’s some more about the eggs if you’d like to see them. Happy holidays!

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