Antique Collecting articles Unscrambling Fabergé Eggs - Page 2

including television and radio, completely obscured the artificial systems described above. Consequently it is necessary to examine them afresh before the meaning of some of Fabergé’s work is fully understood. At the close of the 19th century the allusions referred to above were a godsend to the international jewellery trade and were enthusiastically exploited. In New York it was Tiffany that was their greatest exponent but Cartier and Boucheron in Paris, Garrard, Hancocks and Giuliano in London and Bolin and Fabergé in Russia were also the keenest possible advocates. Indeed the Fabergé record books from the Holmström workshop abound with related material (fig 1). However it was not only in Fabergé’s jewellery but in the famous eggs and botanical studies that the covert meaning of flowers and gemstones can be decoded. Setting aside the meaning the Clover Egg for a moment let us consider the unusual way in which it is made. The enameling techniques used to construct the openwork shell of the Egg were virtually unprecedented at Fabergé and take the form of a delicate tracery of overlapping trefoils in plique-à-jour enamel interspersed with others entirely set with diamonds. Plique-à-jour, sometimes known as transparent enamel is sometimes said to have been invented in the late nineteenth century but in fact a simple form of it was made in eighth century France. Undoubtedly this technically demanding technique gained momentum in Japan in the nineteenth century where it had evolved as an extension of cloisonné¢ enamel. However in Paris Fabergé’s contemporaries took the process to new heights of expertise and inspiration. At the L’Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, where Carl Fabergé was a member of the jury, plique-à-jour enamel was shown by a number of jewellers including Lalique and Fouquet and was greatly admired. With the challenge of inventing an original and witty design for the Easter egg intended for 1902 it is likely that the art nouveau jewellery at the exposition had fertilized Fabergé’s concept of an egg arranged as a posy of clover, laced together with a meandering ribbon of blood-red calibre rubies. Like the majority of Imperial Easter Eggs it originally contained a surprise; in this case a quatrefoil jewel with apertures for miniatures, presumably likenesses of the Grand Duchesses, (fig 5). An undated design of a jewel of this form 42 survives in the Homström archives and is shown in fig 2. To scholars of the Imperial Easter Eggs it is not only the unique application of plique-à-jour enamel that makes the egg of 1902 such an enigmatic object but also its meaning; a meaning that goes well beyond the simply decorative. Owing to its heart-shaped leaves all varieties of clover have associations with luck and love and appear in aspects of decorative art as disparate as jewellery and raffle tickets. Consequently it has been suggested in The Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs (Christie’