This is the story of Fabergé's Imperial Easter eggs – of their maker, of the tsars who commissioned them, of the middlemen who sold them and of the collectors who fell in love with them. It's a story of meticulous craftsmanship and unimaginable wealth, of lucky escapes and mysterious disappearances, and ultimately of greed, tragedy and devotion. Moreover, it is a story that mirrors the history of twentieth-century Russia – a satisfying arc that sees eggs made for the tsars, sold by Stalin, bought by Americans and now, finally, returned to post-communist Russia. There is also an intriguing element of mystery surrounding the masterpieces. Of the fifty 'Tsar Imperial' eggs known to have been made, eight are currently unaccounted for, providing endless scope for speculation and forgeries. This is the first book to tell the complete history of the eggs, encompassing the love and opulence in which they were conceived, the war and revolution that scattered them, and the collectors who preserved them.
In 1885 Czar Alexander III presented his wife, Marie, with a spectacularly crafted Easter egg. Over the next three decades, its creator, Carl Faberg , made 49 more such eggs filled with jeweled surprises and exquisitely detailed paintings for the czar's family. Faber (Stradivari's Genius), former managing director of his family's firm, Faber & Faber, describes the eggs in loving, mouthwatering detail, bolstering his claim that the French-born jeweler led the Russian aristocracy to appreciate fine jewelry design over sheer gem size. Faberg 's influence also spread westward. In England, Marie's sister, Queen Alexandra, also developed a passion for Faberg . Many of the eggs wound up in the United States after the canny businessman Armand Hammer made a deal with the Soviets to buy nearly one-third of them. Eventual owners included Egypt's King Farouk and cereal heiress Marjorie Meriweather Post. Faber frustratingly devotes far more ink to Romanov history and the precious eggs' twisted paths after leaving Russia than he does to the man who designed them. But the details he does provide such as Hammer's unscrupulous dealings make for a tantalizing read. 16 pages of color photos.