Antique Collecting articles Unscrambling Fabergé Eggs

Unscrambled Eggs In an important reinterpretation, jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn claims the true inspiration for some of Faberge’s remarkable Imperial Easter Eggs came from folklore, Christian lore and even throwaway greetings cards TSAR NICHOLAS II CELEBRATED his last Easter less than 100 years ago in 1918. However in the space of a lifetime it seems that the world has shifted on its axis; what has been gained in technology has been lost in religious faith and liturgical traditions. In order to estimate the gulf between our immediate predecessors and ourselves it is necessary to recall a society without television and radio, and mostly without the telephone and electric light. Entertainments were limited to banquets, balls, theatres, and country sports but the church, with its annual festivals, remained the focus of everyday life for everyone. This was a life illuminated not by the glow of the computer screen but by hobbies, books, hand-written letters and greetings cards. For many people there was much more available time, and to fill it a number of covert means of communication, based on historical precedent were revived and elaborated. These included the language of flowers and the lore of the lapidary. By the early 1900s so many booklets had been published devoted to the meaning of flowers that it is pointless to single out any one of them here. Understandably the focus was narrower for those that classified the meaning of precious stones and so it is worth mentioning at least one or two. In 1907 George Bratley published The Power of Gems and Charms and in 1913 Frederick Kunz, vice president of Tiffany, tried to have the last word on an ancient tradition in his book The Curious Lore of Precious Stones. More often than not the lore of the lapidary paralleled the amatory meaning of flowers; for example the forgetme-not echoes the turquoise in standing for true love and the rose mirrors the ruby in signifying the pleasure and pain of love, even the blood of Christ. After the guns of two World Wars finally fell silent it was not only capital cities that had been leveled but also society and many of it customs. Later modern electronic advances, Opposite: Fig. 1 The Imperial Easter Egg of 1902 known as the Clover Egg in the form of four-leaf clover rendered in plique-à-jour enamel, diamonds and calibre rubies. Kremlin Armoury Museum, Moscow. Above: Fig. 2 An undated design for a jewel in the form of a four-leaf clover set with diamonds. Each leaf has an open aperture, probably for miniatures or photographs. From the Holström Archive. Wartski, London Right: Fig 3 An Easter card in the form of four-leaf clover tied with a red ribbon, c. 1900. Private Collection. 41