Newsletter 2019 Spring and Summer

Spring and Summer 2019
Regular Columns: Eggs | Museum News | Publications

Fabergé Brick Table Match Holders/Strikers
By Christel Ludewig McCanless (USA) and Riana Benko (Slovenia)
“Expensive things interest me little if the cost (value) is merely in so many diamonds or pearls.”
Carl Fabergé, 1914 interview1
These words convey Fabergé’s deepest belief that the value of a piece is in its design – how the materials work together with the artist’s vision in creating the perfect aesthetic to enhance the function of the object. For example, the Fabergé firm utilized copper, leather, wood, cork, tortoise shell, steel, and granite, as well as bricks or sandstone for its color and texture, without regard to the monetary value of these materials. If the material fit the design and function, it was the right material.

Cork Cigarette Case-Tortoise Shell Cigarette Case, Lorgnette and Comb
(Forbes, Christopher, and Robyn Tromeur-Brenner,
Fabergé: The Forbes Collection, 1999, 50-51, 170-171)

1916 Steel Military Egg
(Muntian, Tatiana,
Fabergé Easter Gifts, 2003, 66)
Granite Entrance Fabergé Shop, Bolshaya
Morskaya 24, St. Petersburg, Russia
(Photograph Courtesy Stephen Kirsch)
Granite Fabergé Owl
(Christie’s Geneva,
May 12, 1980, Lot 291)
A study of unusual smoking accessories gathered by Riana Benko began with an illustrated essay, “Fabergé Silver Table Lighters with a Personality” (Fabergé Research Newsletter, Spring 2016). That research by the authors continues here and focuses on table match holders made out of Russian clay bricks, a basic, mundane material (also called ceramic, marble, or terra cotta in the Fabergé literature) used to light cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. The bricks vary in length from 3 3/4 in. (9.6 cm) to 4 3/4 in. (12 cm) with a rough brick surface on the outside serving as a striker for the matches and two storage compartments. Fabergé and his competitors created unique table match holders for Edwardian and imperial households by decorating the objects and handles with snakes, satyrs, putti, cabochon gems, and more. The assistance and peer review of this project by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Timothy Adams, both newsletter contributors with years of experience in the jewelry trade and as Fabergé scholars, were an immense help in clarifying the myriad details gathered from the published literature and archival documentation.
Origin of Brick Match Holders/Strikers

The soil in the village of Mytishchi near Moscow is known for its clay deposits and the availability of sand, which from the 15th century on supported pottery and primitive brick production. In the middle of the 19th century, brick factories opened as the first industrial enterprises to use local raw materials. In the archival files of the Mytishchi History and Art Museum an extant 1871 deed mentions the Mytishchi brickworks. In 1871-72, Aleksei Gavrilovich Gusarev and Vasily Fedorovich Shuttles acquired 10 acres of land for 1,500 silver rubles (ca. $24,000 in 20192) to establish joint production of bricks in the village. Gusarev became one of Moscow’s largest producers of bricks, facade ceramics, stoves, and fireplaces up to the early 20th century. The Civil War in 1917 and the subsequent disruptions led to a complete collapse of the brick production, and by 1918 the activities of the Mytishchi plants had ceased.3


Gusarev firm was allowed to use its founder’s name and the state symbol of the eagle on its bricks.
(Live Journal, November 25, 2012. In Russian.)

The Gusarev factory supplied the bricks to build the German cemetery at Vedenskuga, Moscow. Buried there are Nicholas Kelch (brother of the Russian industrialist Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch), Henrik Bolin (one of the founders of Fabergé’s competitor, the court jeweller W.A. Bolin) and Oscar Pihl (a Finn who headed the Moscow Fabergé shop from 1887-1897).4

A review of the Fabergé literature suggests tablebrick match holders fall roughly into three categories:

  • Marked Erik Kollin (b. 1836-1901)
  • Marked Julius Rappoport (b. 1851-1917), and
  • Others.

Hallmarks recorded in the Fabergé literature are included in the following discussion when they are known. Distinctive styles of match holders without a workmaster’s mark became obvious during this comparative study by the authors, and have therefore been added for future reviews to determine their authenticity by dealers and auction houses. A few of the objects retain their original Fabergé cases, which may assist in the identification process when the objects are examined once more. Some, but not all, match holders are marked on the bottom in Cyrillic Завод А. Гусарева в Москве (Zavod A. Gusareva v Moskve, Plant A. Gusarev in Moscow). Books and auction catalogs are not consistent in citing the maker’s name on the bricks.

Erik Kollin Brick Match Holders/Strikers
Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm5 has shared updated biographical information on Erik Kollin, the first of four Fabergé senior workmasters in St. Petersburg. She cautioned that the Kollin mark never appears in tandem with a KF (Karl Fabergé) mark.
Authentic Erik Kollin Hallmark from Match Holder from Illustration E2.
(Courtesy 1stdibs)



Fake table lighter with fake marks is over-embellished and not consistent with anything Fabergé produced.
(Courtesy Stephen Kirsch)
Erik Kollin’s mark was EK wm-ek and his biographical information follows:

  • Son of a day laborer, born in Finland in 1836, where in 1852 he completed his apprenticeship.
  • 1858  Moved to St. Petersburg and was hired by August Holmström, principal jeweler of the Fabergé firm.
  • 1868  Became a master goldsmith and two years later opened a workshop.
  • 1872  Became the first senior workmaster in the Fabergé firm.
  • 1880-1885  Produced replicas of the Scythian treasures6, which are ancient gold objects found in 1867 by A. E. Ljuzenko in Kerch, a town in Crimea.
  • 1885  His Scythian replicas won a gold medal at the Nüremberg Exhibition of Applied Arts and much prestige for the House of Fabergé.
  • 1885  First Imperial Hen Egg is attributed to Kollin.
  • Worked for Fabergé from 1870 to 1886 and then worked until his death in 1901 for other retail jewelers using the same EK mark.
  • His wife Henrika (Henrietta) continued his workshop until the 1917 revolution, also using EK as a widow’s mark. (Fabergé Research Newsletter, Summer 2011)
Working notes and questions by the authors appear below in purple text.
Princess Maria von Baden Herzogin von
Leuchtenberg, Prinzessin Romanvsky
A. Kollin Match Holder7 with Diamond (?) Eyes
and Snakes Facing Each Other Head-on
(Sotheby’s Munich, October 5-21, 1995,
Lot 1920, DM 9,000; Sotheby’s London,
May 26, 2004, Lot 420, GBP 33,600)

B. “Kollin” Match Holder with Ruby Eyes and Head Positions of Snakes Differ, Close-up Marks, and Red Velvet Base
(Sold in 2017 by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, $15,000)

Workmaster, Date & MarksProvenanceBrick IDOriginal CaseAuction & Price Realized
A. Kollin , ca. 18808, silver & ceramic brick with snake handles, white (diamond?) eyes, snake heads directly opposite each otherPrincess Marie von Baden, Herzogin von Leuchtenberg, with extensive biographical details A. GusarevyesSotheby's Munich, October 5-21, 1995, Lot 1920, DM 9,000 (date of actual sale October 7-9, 1995)
A. (Second Auction) Kollin , ca. 18909, silver & ceramic brick with snake handles, white (diamond?) eyes, snake heads directly opposite each other Collection of Princess Maria von Baden, by descentCyrillic, Zavod A. Gusareva v Moskveyes, lining stamped in Cyrillic Fabergé, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa (Odessa branch did not open until 1900)Sotheby's London, May 26, 2004, Lot 420 GBP 33,600 (image no longer on the web)
B. "Kollin, EK" & Russian 84 silver mark with "St. Petersburg city mark"10, stone ware with ruby eyes, different head positions of the snakesred velvet fabric on the base, brick company name not visible, nor citedno caseSold in 2017 by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries $15,000. Close-ups of the marks on the web.

Probably not a Kollin piece?

C. Kollin Match Holder with Gold Snake Handles, Sapphires, Pearls, before 1896, A Gusarev, Moscow in Cyrillic, Acquired by King Edward VII
(Royal Collection11)

Albert Edward, Prince of
Wales (1841-1910), Later
King Edward VII
with Cigar
(Royal Collection)
D. Kollin Match Holder with Bearded Satyrs
in Etruscan Taste, Base Impressed with
A. Gusarev, Silver Mark Crossed Anchors
(Snowman, A. Kenneth, Carl
, 1979, 46)

E. & E1. Kollin Brick Table Match Holder, Arched Scythian-style Handle
(Also Used by the Kollin Studio on Hand Seals, E.112), ca. 1895. Not
described in the 2010 auction lot as Fabergé. Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm
suggests “the object which clearly is a Fabergé ‘design’ was perhaps
subcontracted by Fabergé from Erik Kollin, at the time working as an
independent master”.

(Sotheby’s London, December 1, 2010, Lot 489;
Courtesy 1stdibs with Close-ups)

E2. 84 Silver Standard13 and
Kollin’s Mark wm-ek Fabergé KF
stamp not shown on the handle
as Tillander-Godenhielm
noted above.

(Courtesy 1stdibs)
E3. Cyrillic Impressed Base Zavod/A.
Gusareva/v Moskve

(Courtesy 1stdibs)
Julius Rappoport Brick Match Holders/Strikers

A second workmaster, whose studio made brick table match holders, is Julius Alexander Rappoport (1851-1917), who had an active workshop from 1883-1908, using markipmark as his mark. Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, who has studied the Fabergé workmasters for many years, clarified the use of the I.P. mark to the authors:

  • In general, a piece marked I.P. and Фаберже was produced for the St. Petersburg shop where the Rappoport workshop was based. Products from the various workshops could be sold in any of the company’s branches.
  • On Rappoport’s products, the master’s marks I.P. and the silver standard mark of St. Petersburg, were struck next to the Fabergé mark without the initial K., i.e. ФАБЕРЖЕ. After 1896 this mark is always combined with the separately punched state arms (the double-headed eagle) in a round cartouche. Only a few Rappoport pieces have been found with the initial K., i.e. К. ФАБЕРЖЕ.
Marked: Fabergé in Cyrillic,
Imperial Eagle/Warrant,
Workmaster’s Initials I.P.,
88 Silver Standard with
Assayer’s Initials of Iakov
Liapunov. Scratched Original
Fabergé’s Stock Number 13100
(Courtesy Romanov Russia)


Forged Rappoport Hallmark
(Ivanov, A. N., Assaying and Hallmarking in Russia
(1700-1946), 2002, p. 241)

Some basic facts about Julius Rappoport are helpful:

  • Born in the Kovno province, now part of Lithuania, he began his apprenticeship in 1880.
  • 1883  Opened his own workshop in St. Petersburg and became the leading silversmith for Fabergé, supplying large silver objects and small objects for writing tables. Best known for his naturalistic animal figures.14
  • 1894  Alexander III commission for the dowry of his daughter, the Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, the surtout-de-table (table centerpiece) at a cost of 50,000 rubles (ca. $1,124,000 in 2019) was the largest article known to have been produced by his workshop.
  • 1908  When he retired, his workshop and its equipment were left to his workmen for their long and faithful service, thus forming the First St. Petersburg Silver Artel Artel mark. Lasting only a few years, its place in the Fabergé firm was taken over by the Armfelt workshop.

Not all brick holders in the last section of this essay are from the Rappoport workshop (active from 1883-1908), yet their common denominator is the emphasis on silver, the known specialty of the Rappoport workshop. A brief chronological review is followed by a satyrs and putti (or cupids) brick match holders. Extant archival documentation, along with the authors’ questions in purple, are also woven into this part of the collaborative study.


Brick Match Holders by Rappoport and Other Workmasters: A Chronology

F. Rappoport Terracotta Match Holder on Four
Silver Lions, ca. 1880 (apprenticeship began in 1880,
first shop opened in 1883
(Christie’s London, October 6, 1988,
Lot 201, GBP 6,60015)
G. Rappoport Match Holder with Claw Feet, Stamped in
Cyrillic Factory of A. Gusarev in Moscow, before 1887,
Property of a Royal Family, Stock # 41642 (is this a
Fabergé stock number or a later dealer number?
(Ilich, Alice M., Ed. A Gentleman’s Obsession:
A Collection of Russian Art by Fabergé
and His Contemporaries
, 2007, 356)
Archival illustrations and descriptions from two advertising catalogs from Fabergé’s Moscow shop, published in 1893 and 189916, and a photograph of Nicholas II smoking at his desk (shown below) yielded additional interesting possibilities.



H. Item # 20. Brick Match Holder with Two Compartments on Legs, Hammered Work, 27 Rubles
(ca. $590 in 2019) (1893 Price-list Fabergé – Moscow, pp. 25-26)

An enlarged view – Workmaster not identified, Ulla
Tillander-Godenhielm suggests this match holder
does not fit the Rappoport style or other
St. Petersburg workmasters.
Two other styles depict satyrs and putti (or cupids). A satyr in classical mythology was part man and part goat. In the Fabergé literature satyrs are shown making music17 or frolicking and tumbling over bricks. A putto used in Renaissance art is represented by a naked child, most often as a cherub or a cupid with wings. Extant archival documentation, along with the authors’ questions in purple text, are woven into the next segment of this collaborative study.


Satyr Brick Match Holders


I. Item # 58. Clay Match Holder with a Figure of Oxidized Silver and Hammered Work, 27 Rubles
(ca. $640 in 2019) (1899 Price-list Fabergé-Moscow, pp. 43-44).

Is the archival satyr (I.) above a match to either of the auction lots studied below in (J.) or (K.)?
J. Fabergé Silver-mounted Brick
Match Holders, ca. 1895, J.
Rappapport [sic] Stock Number 614
with an 88 silver standard18,
price realized 192,500 GBP
(Courtesy Sotheby’s)
K & K1. Two Views of an Unmarked Satyr, Stock Number 833, Price Realized 75,650 GBP
(Open case image (K.1) is no longer on the internet, does the object have a new case in K.?)
(Sotheby’s London, November 30, 2011, Lot 570)
Review of the two cases Stock Number # 614 # 833 open case
CaseMinor wear at the hinge between the base and the lid Extensive wear on the wooden box
LiningComplete with Fabergé logoDamaged, logo stamp is incomplete
BrickPristineShows Age
Close-up of the Satyrs
K & K1.
K. & K1.
Review of the Satyrs(J.) Stock Number #614 (K. & K1.) # 833
MarksI.P., 88 silver standardnone
Flute(s)Two holes each above and below the handsTwo holes below the hands
HoofsTwo distinct hoofsPossibly one hoof with some minor damage

L. Brick Match Holder by Fabergé, Two Silver-mounted Frolicking Satyrs, Moscow, circa 1890, Gusarev Brick Factory in Moscow, Apparently Unmarked, in
Original Fitted Case Stamped K. Fabergé (without shop locations) with Imperial Warrant. Provenance: A La Vieille Russie19 to Forbes Magazine Collection (FMC)
in 1982, sold by FMC at auction
(Christie’s New York, Apil 19, 2002, Lot 91, $119,500, with an estimate of $30,000-40,000) (Source for illustrations L1. and L3. Christies, New York;
Source for illustration L2. Forbes and Tromeur-Brenner, Fabergé: The Forbes Collection, 1999, 238-239, 291)

Putti or Cupid Brick Match Holders

Now we move on from satyrs to figures of putti or cupids; as noted above, a putto or cupid was depicted in Renaissance art as a naked child with wings.


M. Rappoport Silver-mounted Brick Match Holder, I.P. Workmaster Mark, Fabergé
in Cyrillic Characters; Brick Stamped A. Gusarev Factory, Moscow in Cyrillic.
Provenance: Acquired by King Edward VII, Date Unknown.
(Royal Collection)

The extant Russian archival records mention brick match holders decorated with cupids, and there is a brick match holder-with possibly a cupid, as yet unconfirmed-on the desk of Emperor Nicholas II in the photograph below. This is one more mystery to be solved.

The first archival document is the 1893 Moscow Price List:


N. Item #109. Clay Match Holder for Cabinet Matches with an Oxidized Cupid and Illustration,
45 Rubles (ca. $980 in 2019) (1893 Price-list Fabergé – Moscow, pp. 35-36)

The second archival document is the 1895 Moscow Price List:
O. Item # 538. Brick (Match Holder) with Cupid and a Pigeon, April 14, 1895, Stock Number S. 1244, 75 Rubles ($1,734 in 2019),
Listed in a Fabergé Inventory of Items Purchased by Empress Maria Feodorovna.
(Guzanov, A. and R.R. Gafifulin, Fabergé Items of Late XIX – Early XX Century in the Collection of the State Museum Pavlovsk, 2013, 94. In Russian.)
The archival photograph below shows Emporer Nicholas II seated at his desk in the Lower Dacha at Peterhof as he enjoys a cigarette. A brick match holder with what appears to be a rather faint figure on top of a brick is seen on the far right in front of a photograph frame. Galina Korneva, a historian/researcher in the Russian Archives (RGIA) and a Fabergé Research Newsletter contributor, dates the photograph to 1895, the first summer Nicholas and his wife spent at the Lower Dacha after their marriage in November 1894. The summer retreat became an annual event for many years.
Nicholas II at His Desk in the Lower Dacha, Peterhof, 1895.
(Photograph published in Géza von Habsburg, Fabergé:
Hofjuwelier der Zaren
, 1986, 45; English Edition, 1987,
p. 43, without a date or location identified.)
Is the 1893 (N., cupid on a ball) brick match holder from the Fabergé merchandising catalog costing 45 rubles (ca. $980 in 2019 values) a match to the Nicholas II photograph? Probably not, it is too early for the 1895 Nicholas II photograph, and furthermore, imperial customers probably did not buy a Fabergé object from a Moscow merchandising catalog.

Is the 1895 match holder (O., cupid and a pigeon) bought by the Dowager Empress at a cost of 75 rubles ($1,740 in 2019 values) a gift to her son? Until a better photograph or more evidence is found, it is not known if the Nicholas II match holder in the photograph is a putto holding a pigeon or dove, or balancing a ball on top of a Gusarev brick (N.)


Unmarked Brick Table Match Holders

1. Probably Acquired by the Prince of
Wales (later King Edward VII) (Royal
) Caroline de Guitaut, senior
curator of the Royal Collection, suggests the
cloisonné enameling is “Old Russian Style”.
While reminiscent of the work produced by
[Fedor] Rückert for Fabergé-it is unmarked.
It may have been produced in the
workshops of Ovchinnikov, famous for
their cloisonné enameling.20
2. Sotheby’s London, June 4, 2003,
Lot 577, DNS (Did not sell)
3. Christie’s Geneva, November 17 and
19, 1992, Lot 199, DNS
4. Christie’s London, November
30-December 1
, 2005, Lot 138,
GBP 6,000
5. Christie’s London, December
13, 1995, Lot 275, DNS
(No image available)
Seven auction citations for the unmarked brick match holders (1. through 5.) listed above were found, and one object probably was acquired by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), now in the Royal Collection. Common characteristics of this series of brick holders are silver overlays on the edge of the brick. The authors made the following observations from the auction catalog descriptions about the numbered items listed above:

  • In the style of Fabergé (1, 5)
  • Brick manufacturer’s logo (1, 5)
  • Fabergé marks: Moscow (5) and St. Pete (3, 4)
  • Offered at auction four times, sold only once in 2010 for €5,800 (2)
  • Sold at auction 6,000 GBP (4)
  • Provenance given (1, 4)
  • French import mark (2)


1 Carl Fabergé interview: “A Little about Jewelry,” Town and Country Estate: The Journal of Elegant Living. St. Petersburg, No. 2, January 15, 1914, 13-14.
2 Riana Benko computed the rubles cited in the text to 2019 US dollars with the help of the CPI inflation Calculator.
3 Historical detail in Russian.
4 de Guitaut, Caroline, Fabergé in the Royal Collection, 2003, 228. Fabergé, Kohler, and Skurlov, Fabergé: A Comprehensive Reference Book, 2012, 62, cite a slightly different list of names.
5 Tillander-Godenhielm, Ulla, Fabergé: His Masters and Artisans, 2018, 60-69, 267.
6 Illustrated in von Habsburg, Géza and Marina Lopato, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, 1993, 57.
7 The bricks vary in length from 3 3/4 in. (9.6 cm) to 4 3/4 in. (12 cm).
8 From 1870-1886 Kollin was working for Fabergé.
9 After 1886, Kollin was also working for other jewelry retailers, so the Fabergé designation cannot be confirmed based on the new information from Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm.
10 More correctly crossed anchors, i.e., the silver value of the decorations. Further detail, Workmaster and Marks, Fabergé Research Site.
11 de Guitaut, Caroline, Fabergé in the Royal Collection, 2003, 228 (no. 318) & 198.
12 Sotheby’s London, December 1, 2009, Lot 594, did not sell.
13 Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Maker’s Marks – Russian Hallmarks & Makers’ Marks
14 Tillander-Godenhielm, Ulla, Fabergé: His Masters and Artisans, 2018, 234-235, 267.
15 Prior sale: Sotheby’s Geneva, November 12+14, 1985, Lot 543, SFr 12,100.
16 Facsimile Editions of the 1893 Price-list Fabergé – Moscow, and the 1899 Price-list Fabergé – Moscow. In Russian.
17 The satyr Marsyas, son of Olympus, took the aulos, or double flute, from Minerva, its inventor, after she tossed it aside because it made her cheeks bulge when she played. Marsyas challenged Apollo, who played the lyre, to a musical contest and after losing was skinned alive, the event depicted in Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas (c. 1570). (Sotheby’s London, November 27, 2007, Lot 556)
18 Silver standards are cited as 84 and 88 (or 875/1000 and 916/1000 parts of silver, making 88 slightly below sterling in silver content) (Lowes, Will and Christel Ludewig McCanless, Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia, 2001, 177)
19 Advertisement by A La Vielle Russie appeared in Connoisseur, vol. 209, no. 841, March 1982, p. 73.
20 de Guitaut, Caroline, Fabergé in the Royal Collection, 2003, 27-28.

Fabergé Flatware Monogram Identification Puzzle
By Christel Ludewig McCanless and James Hurtt (USA)
An 18-piece Fabergé flatware set with a crowned “IE” or “EI” monogram from the Durdin Collection recently on view at the Hillwood Museum in Washington (DC) has been attributed to Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna (1864-1918). The authors thank independent researchers, Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Dmitry Krivoshey, for sharing their knowledge and asking pertinent questions which led the research team to eventually find the historical truth for the flatware. It was a circuitous route!

Monogrammed Fabergé “Pine Cone Pattern” Flatware. Knives do not have pineapple finials.
(Courtesy Durdin Collection)

A brief chronological journey:

1999 Forbes and Tromeur1 discuss a lorgnette (A.) with an “E” monogram and the marks Fabergé and workmaster Henrik Wigström (active 1903-1917) belonging to Grand Duchess Elisabeth (1864-1918). The sad part of Grand Duchess’ story after 1905, when her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia was assassinated, is discussed along with a production sketch (B.) showing the initials “IE” illustrated in the book’s Notes section. Despite the two different monograms illustrated – “E” and “IE” – the authors in the Forbes Magazine Collection catalogue raisonné suggest the monogram belongs to Elisabeth, or “Ella” as she was known in her family.

Black Monogrammed Fabergé Lorgnettes
A. “E” Attributed to Grand Duchess Elisabeth
(1864-1918) with a Production Sketch for “IE” (middle)
(Courtesy of The Forbes Magazine Collection).

B. & C. “IE” Incorrectly Attributed to Igumena (Abbess) Elizaveta
(aka Grand Duchess Elisabeth or “Ella”)
(Courtesy Tillander-Godenhielm)

2000 Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm2 illustrates the same production sketch (B.) with a production number and date completed (12655 30/IX/11). This time an identical black lorgnette (C.) but with “IE” monogram matching the sketch is illustrated and the suggestion is made the monogram represents Igumena (Abbess) Elizaveta (aka Grand Duchess Elisabeth or “Ella”), who had taken the veil and founded a convent in Moscow after her husband Sergei was assassinated in 1905.

The biographical sketch in Wikipedia summarizes her new life:

“After Sergei’s death, Elisabeth wore mourning clothes and became a vegetarian. In 1909, she sold off her magnificent collection of jewels and her other luxurious possessions; even her wedding ring was not spared. With the proceeds she opened the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary and became its abbess. She soon opened a hospital, a chapel, a pharmacy and an orphanage on its grounds. Elisabeth and her nuns worked tirelessly among the poor and the sick of Moscow. She often visited Moscow’s worst slums and did all she could to help alleviate the suffering of the poor.”

Now returning to the original assumption of the flatware set supposedly belonging to Grand Duchess Elisabeth – “Ella” – Igumena (Abbess) Elizaveta. It begs the question, why would a nun who has taken a vow of poverty have a new or existing set of flatware of 18 pieces or more after 1905?

2018 For the participants in this case study Dmitry Krivoshey solved the mystery of the lorgnette’s monogram3 and the previously un-identified monogram on the Durdin flatware. In his email he states:

“IE/EI on the flatware is the monogram of Imperial blood Prince Ioann Konstantinovich (1886-1918)4 and his spouse Princess Elena Petrovna of Serbia (1884-1962). Based on an invoice the lorgnette was ordered by the Prince in October 1911. The couple had married on September 2, 1911. The same month Ioann ordered more than 300-piece silver service set and the engraving of “IE” monogram was on every item…He also ordered a porte-case I.E.”

Flatware Monogram Puzzle Solved!
Engagement Photograph of Princess Elena
Petrovna and Prince Ioann Konstantinovich,
ca. 1910
(Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Lorgnette and Flatware with “IE” Monogram for the Married Couple
(Tillander-Godenhielm, Golden Years, pp. 22-23, and Durdin Collection)

The flatware hallmark for the Durdin set is 1908-1917, and our team suggests the monogram is indeed a match to this couple, but of course it is not known if the surviving 18 pieces belong to the 300-piece set. But why not? The original stainless-steel knife blades in the Durdin pine cone pattern are stamped K. Fabergé in Cyrillic, and were made by Chantrill & Co. in Birmingham, UK. At press time, no other monogrammed Fabergé objects5 for this couple have been positively identified in auction catalogs since 1934.

Additional information found during the puzzle project:

  1. On July 17, 1996, Sotheby’s London offered as lot 438 “Three invoices for goods produced by Fabergé, one bill prepared for Princess Elena Petrovna of Serbia, dated August 18, 1915, for a sum of 643 rubles for various items with their prices and stock numbers, including a cross of St. George (36 rubles) and a five rubles charge for the repair and cleaning of two sets of salad implements, and two other invoices, 1915.” No further details were given.
  2. The question arose why a lorgnette to be carried in a purse by a recent bride is black? James Hurtt found the answer – by 1912 black accented jewelry became all the rage. For the 1911 Christmas season the French jeweler Cartier with a branch in Russia received the first requests from its St. Petersburg clientele for jewelry made of black onyx and diamonds.6
  3. Two similar black lorgnettes are known:
Grand Duchess Elisabeth Mavrikievna
(1865-1927), Wife of Grand Duke
Konstantine Konstantinovich (1858-
1915), and parents of Prince Ioann
Konstantinovich, Photograph ca.
1925, with a Similar Lorgnette
(Courtesy Royal Collection)
Another lorgnette of the same basic design for Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna
has sold twice on the auction market, Sotheby’s New York, February 19, 1998,
Lot 467, and Christie’s London December 1-2, 2009, Lot 36 (probably by
Henrik Wigström). This is contrary to the suggestion that Fabergé never
made duplicates.
(Courtesy Christie’s London)
Conclusions reached from this research: Before the year 2000, misattributions for Fabergé objects were not unusual. With new documentary evidence already found and still being discovered in the Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA) in St. Petersburg and beyond, archival details will improve monogram and provenance authenticity. In the past collectors, dealers, and researchers alike may have assumed a crowned “E” is the Grand Duchess Elisabeth, later in life a canonized saint in the Orthodox Church, and one of the more prominent grand duchesses with similar first names from different countries.

The research team enjoyed the research challenge and gratefully acknowledges the support of Kathleen Durdin, and Wilfried Zeisler, chief curator at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, and DeeAnn Hoff, newsletter contributor.



1 Forbes, Christopher, and Robyn Tromeur-Brenner, Fabergé: The Forbes Collection, 1999, 158-159, 283. Sold at Christie’s New York, March 14, 1984, Lot 436 without hallmark or provenance details.
2 Tillander-Godenhielm, Ulla, Golden Years of Fabergé, 2000, 22-23, 57.
3 Monograms as a Source for Attribution of Fabergé Items by Elena Yarovaya (St. Petersburg, Russia) Ph. D., Senior Research Fellow, Numismatics Department, The State Hermitage Museum and Dmitry Krivoshey (Moscow, Russia) Independent Researcher presented this paper at the Fabergé Museum Symposium, St. Petersburg, September 2018.
4 The prince was murdered (age 32) in the same group as Abbess Elizaveta on July 18, 1918.
5 Large tray with an “EI” monogram, 1880-1917, Sotheby’s London, February 18, 1998, Lot 1398. On the auction catalog photograph the monogram is not legible.
6 Nadelhoffer, Hans, Cartier – Jewelers Extraordinary, 1984, 121.

Study of Fabergé’s Hawthorn Sprigs
By Christel Ludewig McCanless (USA)
Ten Fabergé “hawthorn” sprigs made of hardstone materials have appeared on the auction market in the last 44 years. Most of them are marked Fabergé, H.W. wm-hw (for Henrik Wigström), St. Petersburg ca. 1900. Wigström was appointed Fabergé’s head workmaster in 1903, a post he held until the Fabergé firm closed for business in 1918. My detective study began with a hawthorn flower sprig in an agate vase, estimated to bring €80,000 to €120,000 (US$ 94,500 to 141,500) at a 2018 auction. It did not sell. As a researcher and not an appraiser or auctioneer, I have not handled any of these sprays and therefore only worked with auction catalogs and books using lot descriptions, illustrations, and auction results, when available.

I was curious to determine-if I had the funds to invest-which hawthorn hardstone by Fabergé I would bid on. One immediate issue I faced was that not all hawthorn illustrations are identified correctly in the auction lot or book descriptions. Questions I tried to answer:

  1. Are the hardstone flower studies close to Mother Nature’s creations?
  2. How many hardstone sprigs on the auction block have sold or not sold, i.e., been withdrawn or passed in (a term used by the auction houses because the reserve price was not met, due to authenticity issues or for other reasons).

Answer to Question #1 – Nature’s Masterpieces:

Comparing the Fabergé creations to the plants as they grow in nature, I discovered auction catalog descriptions contained some confusion about what a hawthorn bush (a thorny shrub) looks like, as compared to a rowan tree (also known as a mountain ash), or a red currant bush. The descriptions of the minerals used for the vases included jade, agate, chalcedony, and more.

The three plants below can be clicked for a larger image.
common hawthorn
Common Hawthorn
(Photograph by Jouko Lehmuskallio,
red currant
Red Currant
(Courtesy PurePNG)
rowan tree
Rowan Tree
(Courtesy T.E.R:R.A.I.N, Photographer: Phil Bendle)
(Keefe, John Webster, Masterworks
Fabergé: The Matilda Geddings
Gray Foundation Collection
2008, pp. 72-73)

Red Currant & Rowan Tree
(Swezey, et al., Fabergé Flowers, 2004, 26 and 88)

All objects (in vases) above are attributed to Fabergé, only hawthorn in the Gray Collection is marked Henrik Wigström.
Géza von Habsburg after studying the hawthorn and archival records in the Pratt Collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, writes:
“Several versions of this plant exist, all very similar if not identical.” He cites the original Armand Hammer provenance in 1939 with cost of $1,450 from “the collection of a member of the Imperial family” for these flowers studying the Pratt collection and mentions an identical plant in the [Matilda Geddings] Gray Collection. He concludes, “This leads one to think that at best these hawthorns were replicated a number of times by Fabergé and that perhaps the forged hallmarks were added later.” Are the hawthorn objects in the Pratt and Gray collections originals from the Wigström shop or Fauxbergé?
English Hawthorn with Nephrite Leaves, Agate
Vase and Pedestal, Gold Soil with Seven (7) Red
Berries and Three (3) White Berries
Hammer Galleries Catalog,
ca. 1939 For Sale for
Pratt Collection Archives
One Leaf Missing,
Pratt Collection
Gray Collection
(Keefe, John Webster,
Masterworks of Fabergé:
The Matilda Geddings
Gray Foundation
, 2008,
pp. 72-73)
Answer to Question #2 – Auction Results:

Did the object have a fitted and possibly marked case? The first time a case was shown in an auction catalog occurred a year ago, (Dorotheum, Vienna, May 29, 2018, Lot 346).

Between 1975 and 2001, out of seven hardstone “hawthorn” objects that came up for auction, three sold and four did not. For the years 2007 to 2018, three hawthorns were on the market, and one sold for €285,000, one was withdrawn before the auction, and one did not sell.

The same hardstone hawthorn sold successfully three times, in 1975, 1981, and 1985. Matching provenances and photographs helped to identify identical hawthorns with the 8:2 ratio of red berries and white ones. Archival records including details from the 1935 Fabergé exhibition catalog and an illustration from the 1979 book by the renowned A. Kenneth Snowman, proprietor of Wartski London, yield the data below:


Provenance: Miss Yzanga (sister of the Duchess of Westminster)

Exhibition of Russian Art, 1 Belgrave Square, London, 1935 (Ed. note: Exhibition of Russian Art catalog, page 110, states object 588 K “Bunch of Rowan Berries, in pourpourine [sic], with jar of white jade”, not illustrated. Rowan berries are not hawthorns as illustrated above)

Later Provenance: Madame Josiane Woolf, France

Spray of Hawthorn Planted in a White Chalcedony Vase and Base, Height 5 5/16 inches.
Gold Mark 72, Signed H.W. for Henrik Wigström
(Snowman, A. Kenneth. Carl Fabergé, Goldsmith to the Imperial Court of Russia, 1979, 85)

Specifics of the three sales of the same object follow:

  • Christie’s Geneva, November 11, 1975, Lot 263, rowan berry (more correctly hawthorn), fitted case, formerly owned by Mlle. Yznaga del Valle, sister of the Duchess of Manchester, estimate SFr 50,000-60,000, sold for SFr 32,000.
  • Christie’s Geneva, May 12, 1981, Lot 114, offered from Josiane Woolf Collection as a mountain ash (more correctly hawthorn), with fitted original holly wood case, and acquired through A.K. Snowman, final bid SFr 190,000.
  • Sotheby’s New York, December 11-12, 1985, Lot 117, spray of hawthorn with the provenance of Mlle. Yznaga del Valle and Josiane Woolf, in an original fitted holly wood case. Sold for US $110,000.

At this point in my study I realized six hawthorns on the auction market each bore seven (7) red berries and three (3) white berries, i.e., the 7:3 ratio, two with the 8:2 ratio, and the last one with a 6:4 ratio which had piqued my interest. They were made of purpurine, aventurine quartz, and chalcedony. Two of the studies were in glass/rock crystal containers, four sprigs were presented in white vases, plus the hawthorn (illustrated on the right below) in a fitted case. Only one had sold for FFr 4,500 in 1975 (ca. $21,000 in 2019).

Hawthorn Sprig in Rock
Vase, (7:3 ratio)
(Christie’s London,
November 25, 2013, Lot 233)
Hawthorn Sprig in White Vase and Diptych Case
(6:4 ratio)
(Dorotheum, Vienna, May 29, 2018, Lot 346)

Two auctions for sprigs in rock crystal vases (none sold):

  • Sotheby’s Geneva, May 11, 1983, Lot 280, Property of a noblewoman, red currant (more correctly hawthorn), formerly owned by A La Vieille Russie, 1948; private collection United States; European private collection, estimate SF 30,000-40,000, passed in or withdrawn.
  • Christie’s London, November 25, 2013, Lot 233, double-page spread in the auction catalog discusses in detail the hawthorn in the rock crystal vase illustrated directly above. (Nearly identical versions are cited from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, originally sold by Armand Hammer to Mrs. Lillian Pratt, as well as the Yznaga/Woolf hawthorn and the one in the Gray Collection.) Estimate £150-200,000. Withdrawn before the sale.

Five auctions for sprigs in white vases (one sold):

  • Sotheby’s Parke Bernet, Monte Carlo, November 29, 1975, Lot 99, Currant (more correctly hawthorn), no mention of the workmaster Henrik Wigström, fitted Fabergé case. Sold for FFr 4,500.
  • Sotheby’s Geneva, November 26, 1982, Lot 196, details about the hawthorn in the Pratt Collection and the hawthorn from the Yznaga/Woolf collections, no case mentioned, estimate SFr 35,000-45,000, passed in or withdrawn.
  • Sotheby’s London, June 5, 2001, Lot 141, fitted wood case with diptych doors, the silk lining interior stamped, A La Vieille Russie, 785 Fifth Ave., New York. Estimate €80,000-120,000. Passed in or withdrawn. No image on the internet.
  • Hampel, Munich, December 7- 8, 2007, Lot 640, hawthorn in its original Fabergé wooden case, provenance A La Vieille Russie, New York, workmaster mark shown below. Final bid €285,000. No longer on the internet.
    Hallmarks on the Stem (Hampel Auction)

    Problems: Second period missing on the H.W. mark. Assay mark only gives the gold value, is missing the city
    with assayer’s initials. Are hawthorn stems ribbed on the other Fabergé hawthorns or in nature?


    Known Henrik Wigström Marks
    (Courtesy Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm)

  • Dorotheum, Vienna, May 29, 2018, Lot 346, estimate of EUR 80,000 to 120,000 (US$ 94,500 to 141,500). Did not sell. The auction catalog description:
    “FABERGÉ – Hawthorn, agate, jasper, nephrite, jade, gold, hawthorn with gold stem, ripe berries of red jasper, unripe berries of white jasper, nephrite leaves, planted in imitation gold soil, vase of white agate on a jade base, height: 13,5 cm, maker’s mark H. W [sic] (more correctly H.W. wm-hw) = Henrik Wigström, company mark “FABERGÉ”, purity mark “72”, in birch wood case of “A La Vieille Russie 785 Fifth Avenue New York”. Excellent workmanship by the renowned Fabergé master craftsman Henrik Wigström. Comparable item to Sotheby’s New York December 11 and 12, 1985 cat. 117 (Ed. note: Hawthorn from Yznaga/Woolf collections) and also an item in Fabergé-Cartier, Rivalen am Zarenhof, edited by Géza von Habsburg, Munich 2003, cat. no. 388. (Ed. note: Gray Collection hawthorn).”
From this brief study a number of questions remain for Fabergé researchers to pursue.

  1. Which of these hawthorn studies are from the Wigström atelier (active 1903-1917)?
  2. What stylistic differences are visible?
  3. What published literature and archival resources are helpful in conducting further research on flowers originally owned by members of the Russian imperial court or their relatives? The British Royal Collection has flowers with original provenances.

Publications recommended:

Swezey, Marilyn Pfeifer, et al., Fabergé Flowers, 2004 (page 26 shows a red currant in a vase, unmarked, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; page 88, a rowan tree is illustrated. Two extant design sketches of flowers from the Wigström studio appear on pp. 62, 64)

Auction catalogs showing lots sold by the two leading auction house, Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

Exhibition catalogs and Fabergé books annotated on the Fabergé Research Site.

Archival records to consult include the Fabergé London Branch Sales Ledgers, and purchases made by the Imperial family in Guzanov, A. and R.R. Gafifulin, Fabergé Items of Late XIX–Early XX Century in the Collection of the State Museum of Pavlovsk, 2014.

Remembering a Special Exhibition

Fabergé: The Imperial Eggs, October 22, 1989 – January 7, 1990

The Mieks Fabergé Eggs website maintained for many years by Annemiek Wintraeken contains detailed histories and events relating to Fabergé Easter eggs. A recent addition to the listing of early exhibitions (1900, 1902 and 1939) is an illustrated essay of the 1989 Fabergé Venue in San Diego at which 27 Fabergé Eggs were reunited for the first and probably the only time ever. For the contributors to her essay it was a walk down memory-lane as they reminisced about this unbelievable Fabergé exhibition taking place 30 years ago.
1902 Clover Leaf Egg Surprise Identified? A Team Effort
In this essay, two Fabergé enthusiasts provide tantalizing information about this surprise.

Annemiek Wintraecken (The Netherlands) writes:

In October 2017, Fabergé egg enthusiast Greg Daubney from the United Kingdom sent me a photograph of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wearing a medallion around her neck. He suggested it might be the missing surprise (later identified with a portrait of the Tsesarevich Alexis) for the 1907 Rose Trellis Egg. While studying this image, I noticed the Empress was also wearing a brooch or pin resembling a four-leaf clover on her waist cummerbund. Could it be the missing surprise for another egg, the 1902 Clover Leaf Egg by Fabergé? How many four-leaf clover jewels with four tiny portraits could the Empress have owned? Unfortunately, the enlarged image was unclear and too vague to determine if the jewel was by Fabergé, but the more I looked at the object, the more I realized there were at least four miniature portraits on clover leaves bordered by diamonds. And with a little bit of imagination one can even see the faces of the four daughters of the Imperial couple, Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna.

1902 Clover Leaf Egg
(Muntian, Tatiana, Fabergé.
Easter Gifts
, 2003, 36-39)
Nicholas II and Alexandra on Board
the Imperial Yacht Standart at Reval,
Russia (now Tallinn, Estonia) in
June 1908.
Enlargement of the Brooch on the Waist Cummerbund
(Courtesy Royal Collection)
Juan F. Déniz (Gran Canaria, Canary Islands) writes:

In June 2018, I found an illustration of a clover leaf in an article entitled “Unscrambled Eggs” by Geoffrey Munn1 with this caption: “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 Holmström Archive. Wartski, London.” I recalled Annemiek Wintraecken’s research on the 1902 Clover Leaf Egg and her hypothesis about the missing surprise, both discussed on her website.

Holmström Design Sketch
(Courtesy of Geoffrey
Munn, Wartski, London)
Enlargement of Quatrefoil
Worn by Empress Alexandra
on Her Cummerbund
(Courtesy Royal Collection)
I was not certain the ornament was created by Fabergé, since brooches or similar jewels in the form of a clover were a fashionable accessory for women during Fabergé’s time. After lining up the design sketch next to the enlarged brooch or pin in the shape of a clover leaf worn by the Empress in 1908, the similarity became apparent based on the different sizes of the leaves and their shapes. Is Holmström’s design sketch the prototype for Alexandra’s accessory?

Tatiana Muntian in her essay in the exhibition catalog for the first major Fabergé exhibition in the former Soviet Union in 19893 states:

“The ‘surprise’ of the Clover Egg from the Kremlin is lost but some archive papers make it clear that there was a large ‘clover leaf of four foils with 23 diamonds, roses and four miniature portraits.’ One may only guess that the portraits were those of [the] Tsar’s daughters. …” Muntian concludes with an explanation of the symbolic meaning of the four-leaf clover or quatrefoil.
The 1902 Egg is included without its surprise in the detailed 1909 inventory of the Imperial family’s private apartments by Nikolai Dementiev, inspector of the premises of the Winter Palace. Was the surprise “in use” by the Empress as a piece of jewelry to be worn? The Clover Egg with its stand is just 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm) in height, so its surprise had to be quite small. Illustrated below are the prongs for the surprise:
1902 Clover Leaf Egg Open Displaying Prongs
(Photograph Courtesy Moscow Kremlin Museums)
Close-up of the Egg and Prongs, Possibly a Jeweler’s Technique to
Secure the Top and Bottom of the Delicate Egg or to Hold the Lining for
the Surprise2 (Photograph from Muntian, Tatiana, Фаберже.
пасхальные подарки [Fabergé. Easter Gifts, also an English
Edition], 2018, 103-105)
Enlargement with the Prongs (Colorized by Ben Swindle)
The authors contacted Geoffrey Munn, managing director emeritus, Wartski, London, with their hypothesis. His response was as follows:
“As I said in the article the quatrefoil is, for obvious reasons, a very popular device in 19th and early 20th century. It not only stands for luck in love, but is well established in Christian lore. However, since the surprise is missing and there is a quatrefoil worn by the Empress there is every reason to think this is the very one. Bravo for the discovery to both Juan and you!”
An effort to find the surprise pictured in auction catalogs from 1934 to the present has not yielded any results. A quatrefoil dated 1890, without spaces for photographs and yet similar to the Holmström design sketch was made in the Mikhail Perkhin workshop. It sold at auction, Christie’s London, November 26, 2018, Lot 208.


1 Antique Collecting, June 2015, 40-45.
2 Explanatory text courtesy of Timothy Adams. The Rose Trellis Egg is shown open with its lining in Tillander-Godenhielm, Ulla, Fabergé, His Masters and Artisans, 2018, 132, and on the Mieks Fabergé Eggs website.
3 Muntian, Tatiana, “New Information of the Fabergé Pieces in the Kremlin Collection” in The Fabulous Epoch of Fabergé, 1992, p. 71. The exhibition opened on February 8, 1989, but the catalog did not appear until 1992. (McCanless, Christel Ludewig, Fabergé and His Works: An Annotated Bibliography of the First Century of His Art, 1994, # 1520)

Museum News
Virginia Museum of Fine Art

Newsletter contributors Annemiek Wintraecken and Daniel Briére each found a link to a 105-year-old photograph showing the Fabergé sailor that has been in the Pratt Collection at the Richmond, Virginia, museum since 1947. The find is courtesy of an online blog (Winter Palace Research by Joanna Wrangham November 11, 2008).

Fabergé Sailor Statue
(Courtesy of Virginia
Museum of Fine Arts
Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Is Seated on the Couch.
(Winter Palace Research Blog, November 11, 2018).
Sailor Figurine Spotted in a Book Case in the Home of Grand Duke
Mikhail Mikhailovich and His Morganatic Wife Natasha, Gatchina
Palace, see correction below).
Annemiek Wintraecken writes, “It is a nice addition to our story ‘The Zarnitsa Sailor and His Place in History’ published by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in their 2011 Fabergé Revealed book, pages 102-109.”

Daniel Briere adds that the location of the house identified above was “not at the Gatchina Palace but at the house Grand Duke Mikhail bought in 1914 when he came back from exile. It was located at 24 Nikolaevskaya St., now Uritskogo St. (one mile east from the Gatchina Palace).” On her blog, Joanna Wrangham does identify the photographs as being from “Grand Duke Mikhail’s House in Gatchina”; her mention of the Palace only applies to the last of 6 photographs she posted. I found no date for the sailor photograph but it cannot be before autumn 1914 when Grand Duke Dmitry was awarded his St. George Cross (4th class) on October 13, 1914.


McFerrin Collection at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in Texas


Fabergé Imperial Presentation Boxes for 1884, 1894, and 1902, Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin
(Courtesy McFerrin Collection)

Readers are invited to a Fabergé Happening at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on April 15, 2019. If you have not seen the new Artie and Dorothy McFerrin Gallery showcasing the Fabergé and Russian decorative arts collection, now connected to the amazing Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, you are in for a treat!

Timothy Adams, art historian and a frequent contributor to the Fabergé Research Newsletter, is presenting the guest lecture, Fabergé Imperial Gifts: Private and Official. An exhibition booklet, Fabergé – The McFerrin Collection: The Art of Presentation, has been prepared by the McFerrin Foundation to coincide with this event, with essays by Mark Moehrke, Fabergé scholar, and a foreword by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, Fabergé scholar and author of the book, The Russian Imperial Award System, 2005. (The publication for this special exhibition will only be available on-site.)

Event details ….more

Muntian, Tatiana, Fabergé.
Easter Gifts
, 2018
de Guitaut, Caroline, and Stephen Patterson,
Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs, 2018

An archival resource, Catalogue of the Exhibition of Russian Art: 1 Belgrave Square, London S.W. 1, 4th June to 13th July, 1935, is now online. (Our thanks to Louis Adrean, senior librarian, Ingalls Library, Cleveland Museum of Art, for making this happen.)

von Solodkoff, Alexander, The Jewel Album of Tsar Nicholas II and a Collection of Private Photographs of the Russian Imperial Family, 1997.
The book, containing watercolors of his private collection drawn by Nicholas II, is summarized and illustrated in an article by Paul Gilbert, editor of the Royal Russia News.

Fabergé: Precious Jewellery of the Russian Empire, catalog for an exhibition at the National Museum, New Delhi (May 2008-January 2009), curated by Tatiana Muntian, Moscow Kremlin Museums, 2008.
For the first time, Fabergé collections from Moscow and St. Petersburg traveled to India, a country traditionally celebrated for its skilled jewelers and jewelry collections.

Muntian, Tatiana, Fabergé. Easter Gifts, 2018.
An over-sized book with new illustrations and archival photographs updates a smaller book published by Muntian in 2003. The world’s largest collection of imperial Easter eggs created by the firm of Carl Fabergé is in the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin. These eggs are connected with the history of Russia and the life of the imperial family at a turning point in the fate of a huge power. Further details, complete with illustrations, are found in an article, “Kremlin Releases New Book” in Royal Russia News, October 2018. Newsletter reader Simon Frame from Australia alerted me to this stunning new book by Tatiana Muntian. Cathy Roach from Texas han-carried a Russian edition from Moscow to the USA (now my proud possession-newsletter readers are the best!). Since then an English-language edition has been published. Please note: In Russia, his book is generally only available in museum stores in the Alexander Garden and opposite the Patriarch’s Palace, as well as at the Armory and in the Annunciation and Assumption cathedrals in Moscow. Bronze Horseman Books will assist with English editions. (At press time, Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm advised both the Russian and English editions are available in the museum shop of the Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg.)

de Guitaut, Caroline, and Stephen Patterson, Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs, 2018.
In an extensive monograph published to coincide with the exhibition (November 9, 2018 – April 28, 2019, Queen’s Gallery, London, Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs), the authors examine the relationship between Britain and Russia through the lens of art in the Royal Collection. Fabergé objects are interspersed in the familial, political, diplomatic, and artistic stories of the two countries and their royal families over more than 400 years. (Thank you John Jenkins for sending me this amazing book.)

The Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, began sponsoring annual symposiums in 2014. The summaries of the research presentations are published a year after the event. The September 2017 symposium booklet is entitled Russian Jewellery Art of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries in a Global Context, 2018.

Fabergé Easter Masterpieces from the Collection of Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg, 2018, is a reprint of the first edition and authored by Tatiana Muntian, originally published in 2014. This fourth reprint features the museum’s ten Fabergé Easter eggs on a black background.


Dealers: Catalogs and News

Since 1995, A La Vieille Russie (ALVR) in New York City has been publishing a holiday catalog with Fabergé objects included. The 2018 edition is available in both hard copy and online. Readers who have duplicate copies to share, please contact: Recent articles introduce the reader to ALVR’s new location on Fifth Avenue and an article, Q&A: Mark Schaffer, a principal in the family business (Antiques and The Arts Weekly, June 12, 2018).

A selection of news from Wartski, a London Fabergé dealer also in a new location:

Fabergé in London: How Russian Tsarist Jewelry Was Adored in Britain (2017)

From Russia with l’Oeuf: Why the Fabergé Phenomenon Lives On (Hamilton, Olenka in Spear’s Magazine, July/August 2018)

Wartski Brings Antique Jewellery and Rare Fabergé to St. James’s in a State-of-the-art Showroom Worth Making Time For (2018)

Wartski Introduces BADA Friends to Treasures of the Past (2019)

Journals and Newspapers

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, author of the recent book Fabergé: His Masters and Artisans, and Geoffrey Munn, formerly of Wartski London, were interviewed by CNN, an American television network. Tillander-Godenhielm describes her “unconventional approach to the jewelry house’s oeuvre by focusing on the collaborators that Fabergé surrounded himself with, from designers to the master gold- and silversmiths who helped bring their visions to life.” The online version of the interview House of Fabergé: The Story behind the World’s Most Luxurious Eggs, with a plethora of Fabergé eggs as illustrations, was published in August 2018.

For the September 2018 issue of the Finnish journal, Antiikki & Design, Tillander-Godenhielm was asked to write her story, Minä ja Fabergé (Me and Fabergé). Fortunately for Fabergé Research Newsletter readers, she agreed to tell her story in English, which follows!

My journal article is a mini-autobiography. I have collaborated with the Journal Antiques & Design since it was started 25 years ago by writing articles on the history of jewelry, Fabergé, and in a column answering readers’ questions about jewelry. The journal’s editor-in-chief asked members of his team to write something about their lives. For me the challenge was to explain how I got into the jewelry business and how I learned about Fabergé.

So in short: For a child born back in those days into our family, it was clear already in the cradle that I had to follow in my father’s footsteps. My dad, Herbert Tillander, was the third generation of our family firm which was founded in 1860 by his grandfather Alexander Tillander in St. Petersburg, Russia. I have the funny story of how I was first acquainted with precious stones in the Foreword of my book, Jewels from Imperial St. Petersburg (page 9): snatching my dad’s rubies, emeralds and sapphires from his desk, thinking they were candies. So that is why I have the snapshot of one-year old Ulla on the potty, waiting for the precious gems to re-appear. The next photograp in the family album is of a 17-year-old in the school photo-exchange student year in the USA-a great experience during my high school years.

I never would have been a good craftsman making jewelry myself or for that matter be a designer. Instead I learned the trade by studying business (BA in Economics), after which I was sent ‘out in the world’ by my father. While in the United States during my last year in high school, I attended a diamond grading course at the Gemological Institute of America in Los Angeles. Next my training and experience included four years in London-first with a diamond dealer in Hatton Garden where I learned to grade diamonds. Then a stint with an Antwerp diamond cutting company, Komkommer & Cie, acting as their ‘salesman’ of diamonds in the UK and Ireland (my best customers were Dublin jewelers). I was also purchasing precious stones and antique jewelry for our firm back home and sold our own Finnish designed jewelry in London. All of this without much financial success for the family firm in Helsinki. But it was excellent experience for my future job! When I reminisce, I do not understand how a father could think a young girl without any experience could succeed in that world. But it was a great learning experience! After returning home I began working in our family business and later managed it.

Fabergé came into the picture when our firm celebrated its 120th anniversary. We decided to arrange the 1980 exhibition called Fabergé and His Contemporaries, which was a tremendous success. My friend and colleague Christina Grönblom (with whom I am visiting in Florida as I write this) knew not a single thing about Fabergé. We contacted Kenneth Snowman, Wartski London, who was exceedingly generous with loans, and Géza von Habsburg, head of Russian works of art with Christie’s auction house. We received major objects from Wartski, Christie’s, Bolin in Stockholm, many loans and great assistance from all the descendants of the former masters of Fabergé as well as descendants of the customers of Fabergé-Nobel, Gilse van der Pals, Neuscheller, etc. The Bismarck box was on its way to our exhibition and today (40 years later)- it is on view at the Houston Museum of Natural Science not far from Christina and I are at present.

The 1980 exhibition was my first encounter with object d’art from the Russian court jeweler Fabergé and it gradually resulted in my published books and the exhibitions held all over the world to which we were able contribute exciting loans from Finland. I decided to go back to the university for further studies on the history of art- finally specializing in the arts of the St. Petersburg jewelers and receiving my Ph.D.

It has been a fantastic journey and especially remembering all the amazing people I have had the chance to meet. How they all have helped me during my life’s journey really overwhelms me!

Erik Schoonhoven (Independent Jewellery Historian, The Netherlands) published an article, A Closer Look at the 1901 Queen Wilhelmina Nephrite Tray Last Seen in 1980 in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, Summer 2018. The Dutch paper of record, NRC Handelsblad in its January 17, 2019 edition, used a full-page illustration of the Fabergé Queen Wilhelmina tray on the front page of its Cultural Supplement.

Gerlis, Melanie, “Art Business-Auction Catalogues,” Apollo, December 2018, p. 102. “Have printed auction catalogues had their day? As art businesses branch out into other types of content-from in-house magazines to video-and audiences become ever more impatient, this traditional format may soon be obsolete. But at what cost?” More…


Online Research Tools

The Alexander Palace Time Machine Discussion Forum posted on its website a List of Imperial Jewels Found in Tobolsk 1933, “a small but critical fraction of the possessions of the Russian Imperial family in exile. The true story was well hidden, until the fall of Communism in Russia, and [the list was] published in 1996. Our thanks to Rob Moshein for transcribing the list as printed in ‘The Last Act of a Tragedy’ by V.V. Aleskeyev, Yekaterinburg, 1996.”

PALA International located in Fallbrook, California, has been in the international gemstone business since 1969. A lengthy article by David Hughes, Avarice and Alienation: Jewels of the Romanoffs begins with first five years following the removal of the Romanovs, 1917-1922, and in part 3 ends with a summary for the years 1976-1997. Readers of the Fabergé Research Newsletter who read the series of articles on the Fersman Portfolio (Fall 10 | Winter 10-11 | Spring 12 | Spring 13 | Winter 15 | Summer and Fall 16) may find this newspaper study of the Romanovs jewels and their travels interesting.


Unusual publications: A work of fiction, a children’s book, and a coloring book for grown-ups with patience and imagination in using colored pencils will teach a lot about the Romanovs.

Solomadina, Natalia, How Did He Dream that Up?
Fabergé’s Creations

(Non-Fiction Literary Symposium), 2016
Alexander, Robert et al. Vanished Splendor: The
Colorful World of the Romanovs
, 2017
(Courtesy of the Author)
Sophie Law, in her interview with RussianArt+Culture, October 25, 2018, discusses “the mystery of Fabergé eggs and legacy of the Romanovs today,” which serves as the plot of her novel published in 2018.

Solomadina, Natalia, How Did He Dream that Up? Fabergé’s Creations (Соломадина, H. Что придумал Фаберже), 2016. Book in two editions, in Russian and in English.

This author introduces her book in Russian. The third in a series of books intended to introduce school children to the world’s renowned innovators, the Carl Fabergé biography highlights well-known goldsmiths’ objects created by the Russian jewelry firm for the Imperial Court, as well as for the high society of that time. Heavily illustrated with a combination of archival and modern photographs, the book also appeals to adults. Sample pages from the book and, in particular, a unique view of the undercarriage of the Coronation Egg, are shown by the owner of a website.

Alexander, Robert with Christopher Bohnet (Illustrator), Vanished Splendor: The Colorful World of the Romanovs, 2017.
“Drawing from decades of work, travel, and research in Russia, the author has created a stunning coloring book with every detail rooted in the rich, colorful history that was the glory of Imperial Russia.” Alexander depicts in some detail the grand world of the Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov, and three Fabergé eggs await adult color-pencil artists and Fabergé enthusiasts.

Skip to content