Faberge is one of the most well known and least understood persons in most countries around the world. The first thing that pops into most people’s mind when they hear Faberge is Imperial Easter Eggs. While he did create the Easter eggs that were given to the Tsar, who in turn gave them to his tsarina and his mother; the full story is much more involved and fascinating than that. Faberge and his work was the pivotal point between old style, massive, gaudy gemstones hanging all over in a show of wealth to more nuanced designs.
Faberge developed his techniques over much of his career. He built on the shoulders of the legend of jewelers and artisans before him and studied the techniques of professionals of his day.
Alexander studied the master’s designs and techniques continually during the seven years he worked to replicate the most valued sculptures in the Faberge Collection belonging to Malcolm Forbes and the Forbes Museum.
The techniques used to create Faberge art can be categorized in three areas; enameling, guilloché, and material selection. None of these areas were new to the period, but all were expanded and perfected dramatically during this period of history. A comparison of his techniques and the methods now used by Vivian Alexander are worthy of study.
Enameling: Of the three areas of study, enameling techniques were the most difficult to master by Alexander. During the time of Faberge, Van Cleef and Arpels, and Lalique the prevailing method of enameling involved finely ground glass of various colors and a high temperature kiln to liquefy the glass into a homogeneous mass. Multi layers of enamel were incorporated to obtain a depth and variety of colors. The process was very slow and subject to large variations of quality. Re making the piece, or section to be enameled was not uncommon. Knowing the complexity and tedious process that was used makes one marvel at the beauty of Faberge’s enamel work. This type of enameling is still used by dedicated hobbyist to carry on the technique and tradition.