At present there are two distinctive symbols in jewelry well-known in the West and at the same time related to Russia one way or another. The first one is the 'Russian Cut' and defines the quality of a diamond cut. You can hardly call it a truly global brand because it is not promoted widely enough. It's not that every consumer of means would insist on having his diamonds cut in Russia. Russian cut diamonds are facing a strong competition from similar merchandise coming from other countries with highly developed diamond cutting industry, such as Holland and Israel. Another famous jewelry brand of a Russian origin is 'Faberge'. This name is certainly familiar to any educated person around the world. The name of Faberge is so popular firstly due to notorious sales of decorative Easter eggs considered a part of the history by the leading auction houses. However the paradox is that in spite of such hype in mass media only some groups of consumers associate the name 'Faberge' solely with jewelry. This is especially true of the USA where Faberge trademark was registered in the 30th of the XX century for a line of perfume. There is another reason why the name Faberge is not uniquely associated with Russia: at present this brand no longer represents Russian jewelers. The third reason is that the Russian jeweler Carl Faberge had a European education and was of French-Danish-Estonian-German descent. As a matter of fact he was the head of the German community in St. Petersburg. However, as he was working all of his life in Russia, he was in fact the founder of the Russian school of jewelry-making based on a very important principle: any item, no matter how cheap, has to be produced with a great taste and serve as a sample of a true workmanship and artistry. The House of Faberge produced a very wide range of items; it didn't work solely for the elite, but embraced all kinds of consumers. However the quality standards used to manufacture soldier's cigarette-boxes were the same as those used to craft unique gifts for the royal families.
Our company is selling jewelry by modern Russian manufacturers that have inherited that particular approach and tradition of Faberge. Have no doubt that both a pair of classical silver earrings sold for $30.00 and a necklace worth $3,000.00 from Kostroma, Moscow or St. Petersburg are made with the same love, care, and attention to detail. This tradition of Carl Faberge continues and makes this name a true symbol of Russian jewelers even in the XXI century. That's why the following quotation is the best introduction to our digest of little-known facts from the life (1846-1920) of the Great Jeweler.
Faberge Store in London did not cater solely to the British clientele. It also served as the center of sales to France, America and the Far East. The representatives of the London branch frequently travelled there. They brought with them the samples, and accepted the orders to be sent to St. Petersburg. Thus the Siamese (Thai) royal family was the most important customer of Faberge in the Far East. Could be that the prince Chakrabon had developed his taste for Faberge during his long stay in St. Petersburg where he graduated from the Page Corps and married a Russian lady.
The British government introduced an amendment to the charter of assay under the pressure from local jewelers concerned with the presence of Faberge in the British market. The amendment required the Russian jewelers to first bring unfinished precious metal items to London for branding, next they had to take the items back to St. Petersburg for finishing touches, and only after that they could bring the finished items to London. This amendment together with the onset of the WWI slowed down sales, hampered deliveries from Russia to England, and finally, in 1915, forced the House of Faberge to close the store in London.
When interviewed by newspaper reporters in 1914 Carl Faberge told them with a feeling of well justified superiority:-"If you compare the items manufactured by my company to those of 'Tiffany', 'Boucheron', and 'Cartier', you will most likely find far more precious stones over there. You are likely to find there a ready-made necklace for 1.5MLN rubles (close to $65MLN today). But those are the jewelry dealers, not artists. I have little interest in an expensive item as long as the price is determined solely by great numbers of diamonds or pearls".
Carl Faberge and his brother Agafon Faberge were in the middle of the discussion of the project of still another Easter egg for the royal family the year the heir to the throne was born. Agafon proposed to elaborate on the idea that the heir to the throne had already been appointed chief of the infantry. Carl promptly agreed and added:-"Yes. But we'll have to include dirty diapers in the composition because insofar they are the only proofs of his target practice."
Hastiness of Carl Faberge had pretty amusing consequences at times. The prayer had to be engraved on the back of an icon. Carl made a sketch for the insignia starting with 'Our Heavenly Father, and then added 'etc'. And that's exactly what the engraver copied instead of the full text of the prayer. Carl remarked to that innovation:-"How come our preachers didn't think of such a simple way to cut the time of the service?"
When Carl Faberge himself was taking a specific order and client's instructions he was frequently distracted and sometimes he soon forgot the details. Then he turned to all of his employees seeking whoever was closest to him at the time of his conversation with the customer and was amazed that one of his employees could stand nearby and still didn not remembers a thing. Therefore the employees of Faberge used to say that the person responsible for the order is the one who stands close by, rather than the one who takes the order.
Whenever an original drawing was not at hand, it was quite difficult to tell amid a multitude of items which designer was the author of a certain item. Whenever Carl Faberge came across a disappointing item he took his time mocking that unknown author. Sometimes it happened that he himself turned out to be the author of that disappointment. Whenever he was facing his own sketch brought to him as a proof, he used to say with a guilty smile:-"You see! Who is going to criticize you unless you do it yourself?"
At one point an industrialist from Ukraine, a sugar mill owner worth 21MLN gold rubles (about $1.1BLN in current prices) by the name of Koenig complained to Faberge while bargaining for a necklace that:-"Every year keeps bringing in losses". Carl Faberge replied:-"Yes, yes. It's truly so. Every year brings us losses, but strangely enough these losses make us rich".
One member of the royal family was very interested in the craft of jewelry making and wanted to learn it. He asked Carl Faberge to make him the list of all the necessary tools and equipment for his studio. The old master trusted to complete the list had a great sense of humor. His list of the instruments that consisted of hammers, chisels, and engraving tools, also included 'a flat belt of sufficient thickness'. When asked about the use of the belt in jewelry, the old man replied:-"Your Highness, this is the first and the most essential tool. So far no student had ever learned the art of jewelry without it".
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna was a royal family member known for her patronage of foreign jewelers. They enjoyed her powerful protection to sell their items country-wide bypassing custom fees and assays. It looks a bit like a prototype of the modern Russia? Doesn't it? But here is the difference: Carl Faberge and some other jewelers of St. Petersburg managed to prove the illegal antics and cover-ups at the highest level. They managed to ban the sales of the contraband jewelry and legal processing fees had to be paid on all items. It's noteworthy that nobody suffered as a consequence for exposing the illegal activities of the princess, none of the indignant jewelers was killed in a dark alley, and their businesses didn't suffer any repercussions from the royal family. It was quite the opposite.
Nothing Human Was Alien to Him... or Adulterous Escapades of the Great Jeweler. Continued on the next page>>