"Once you were one of the approved suppliers to the crown, it was a very lucrative source of business," says Faberge collector Christopher Forbes. "Every time the Czar went on a visit or received another head of state, there was always an exchange of gifts.
Author Geza von Habsburg continues: "And when the Czar and Czarina traveled, they traveled with suitcases full of Faberge, which were presented here and there to people in thanks. By 1896, the year of the coronation of Nicholas II, virtually all the major presents came from Faberge."
So imaginatively conceived and opulently executed, Faberge's work elevated jewelry to a decorative art unequaled since the Renaissance. At the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, the Imperial eggs were shown in public for the first time. They astounded the jury, which showered him with honors, and Faberge's fame spread throughout Europe.
Among the aristocracy, hardly any personal event could be celebrated without a surprise from the House of Faberge. "Russia was growing as an industrial power, and Faberge was catering to this whole class of nouveau riche Russians," adds Forbes, "and the eggs were his loss leaders to give him the cachet. But the cash was all coming from these newly minted millionaires in Russia."
The novelty of combining artistic inspiration with functional value -and a touch of whimsy - was so successful that Faberge's workshops were flooded with commissions, transforming an ordinary goldsmith shop into the famous "House of Faberge." But though aristocrats, barons of industry, kings and queens alike all crossed his threshold seeking gifts, Faberge's first duty was always to the Czar.
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