Thursday, February 10, 2011

American Use of the Fabulous Fabergé Name

The last Imperial Easter Egg by Peter Carl Fabergé was made for the Russian Czar Nicholas II in 1916.  The first egg was commissioned in 1885 and over the next 30 years 50 such magical creations came from the Fabergé workshops. World War I and the Bolshevik  Revolution destroyed that madly opulent era of the last Romanovs, and with it the House of Fabergé. The Fabergé family was scattered across Europe after losing all with the political upheaval in St. Petersburg.   Youngest son Nicholas was safe in England while his brothers were imprisoned in Russia; Carl and his wife made their way to Switzerland where he died in 1920.  But that was not the end of this famous name, in fact a new chapter was beginning.

The American oil tycoon Armand Hammer purchased many Fabergé pieces during his business trips to communist Russia in the 1920’s. Konstantin Akinsha wrote in Art News, June 2004:  “Hammer had been fortunate: in Moscow he had received not only Imperial Easter eggs and other objects but the stamps of the company with which every object made in the workshop had been marked. Thus he was equipped to produce Fabergé forgeries in America. ”  Not to say that Hammer was ever involved in the production of "Fauxberge" but his contact with the art of Carl Fabergé led to a new use of the famous name.

Akinsha continued: “In 1937 Hammer’s friend Samuel Rubin owner of the Spanish Trading Corporation which imported soap and olive oil closed down his company because of the Spanish civil war and established a new enterprise to manufacture perfumes and toiletries. He registered it at Hammer’s suggestion as ‘Fabergé Inc.’”

Thus began the American chapter in the continuing saga of the Fabergé name and family.  Akinsha wrote: “Eugene and Alexander, two Fabergé sons who lived in Paris and ran a small workshop called Fabergé et Cie, learned about the existence of Rubin’s company only after the end of World War II but their attempts to sue Rubin were unsuccessful. According to documents in the Fabergé private archive which is in the care of Tatiana Fabergé [Carl's great-grand-daughter] and research by [Valentin] Skurlov, Eugene and Alexander didn’t have the money to hire American lawyers and agreed to a settlement proposed by Rubin who paid them $25 000 for the right to use the name.”

And that is how for many years, the name of the world's most renowned jeweler was prominently featured on fragrance (such as Brut), cosmetics and toiletries available at the corner drugstore on Main Street, USA! 

Our next post will continue on the evolution of name as it has been used commercially over the last 75 years. A note of thanks to author Andrew Moore as the source of reference materials.

The Steel Military Egg -- the last Imperial Easter Egg

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