Peter Carl Faberge – “Europe’s Greatest Jeweller”

Pick any TV antique show and the item that is likely to cause the sharpest collective intake of breath is an object fashioned by the late 19th century, St Petersburg Imperial Court jeweller, Peter Carl Fabergé (30 May 1846 – 24 September 1920).

Fabergé was the first of two boys born to a Baltic German jeweller father, Gustav Fabergé and his Danish wife, Charlotte Jungstedt. Gustav’s family was Huguenot of French origins who had fled France in the early 1800s.

In 1862, having retired from the family’s jewelry business, Carl’s parents moved to Dresden, where he studied for several years. Carl was heavily influenced by the contents of Dresden’s ‘Green Vaults’ that contained inspirational figurative jewellery and, somewhat prophetically, various ornate Egg designs.

During his apprenticeship, Fabergé travelled extensively in Europe but in 1872 he returned to St Petersburg where for the next ten years, under the tutelage of Hiskias Pendin, his father’s trusted work-master, he worked to engage the Imperial Court with his beautiful bejeweled objects. During this time he also worked in Tsar Alexander III’s “Winter Palace” – The Hermitage – where he was entrusted to renovate ancient and damaged artifacts.

The Fabergé family business was located on Bolshaya Morskaya Street and was described as a dealer in “petty jewellery and spectacles”. In 1882, Carl took over the business and in 1885 his German-born designer brother, Agathon, joined him. They formed a formidable team and under Carl’s leadership they determined that the business would become “Europe’s Greatest Jeweller”.

Between 1882 and 1917 it is believed that the business made around 200,000 unique objects.

Oddly for a man who’s output and reputation are somewhat defined and characterized by bejeweled objects featuring diamonds and other rare and precious stones, Fabergé was said to be ambivalent about the gems used and more interest in the worthiness of his pieces as art rather than an object of great value. He described himself as an “Artist Jeweller”.

The awards from international exhibitions followed and Fabergé’s place at the heart of the Imperial Court was secured.

Perhaps the items of most international renown to bear the “Fabergé ” name are the astonishingly intricate Easter Eggs. The first was produced in 1885 and was a comparatively simple object. Commissioned by the then Tsar, Alexander III, Fabergé made the “Hen’s Egg” of white enamel egg with a yellow gold interior and accompanying gold chick. It was an Easter gift for Alexander’s wife Maria Feodorovna, an existing Fabergé customer. Her first purchase of a pair of cuff links had assured the House of Fabergé of work as the jeweller of choice for the fine gifts that the Imperial Court was obliged to give to visiting dignitaries. The beautiful objects performed an almost ambassadorial role boasting of the great beauty that Russia was capable of.

On 1st May 1885, so delighted was Maria Feodorovna with her gift, that she bestowed the title “Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown” upon Carl.

Access to the Hermitage meant that Carl could study the great works preserved in its huge collection. This re-ignited his interest in the art of enameling that the House of Fabergé used to astonishing effect. His preferred method was a process known as “guillot charge” in which concentric lines are engraved onto the surface of an object, which is then carefully coated with layers of liquid and coloured glass, which when fired, build up on the object’s surface. The stunning results achieved using this method gives the piece both a depth of colour and radiated light.

In 1887, Tsar Alexander gave Faberge a free hand in the design of subsequent Easter Eggs, his conditions were that they had to be intricate and contain a surprise. He commissioned one egg annually for his wife.

In 1889 Nicholas, his brother and several courtiers, undertook a nearly year long journey by sea from Trieste, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, to Vladivostok. He left with a large quantity of Fabergé pieces that would be given as gifts to his various hosts. At some point in the journey supplies ran short and more were requested from St Petersburg. The Siamese Royal family, who welcomed Nicholas to what is now Thailand, was particularly enchanted by Faberge’s Eggs and became avid collectors and Fabergé customer. The 1891 Easter Egg depicts a golden replica of the Nicholas’ ship on an aquamarine tablet sitting inside a deep green egg decorated with ‘waves’ of gold inlaid with diamonds.

The 1891 Easter Egg

Upon the Tsar’s death in 1894, his son Tsar Nicolas II continued the tradition and commissioned one egg each year for both his wife and Mother, by 1917 a total of fifty eggs had been made. Maria Feodorovna had thirty and her daughter in law, Alexandra Feodorovna, had twenty.

In addition to intricacy of the Swan and Peacock automatons eggs, probably the most beautiful egg is the “Winter Egg” of 1911 (our featured image). Designed for Maria Feodorovna and secreted a basket of spring flowers inside a white crystal egg engraved with frost and inlaid with white diamonds.

Whilst many of the eggs are now in private collections the whereabouts of up to fifteen are still unknown.

The influence of the stylized chrysanthemums from the Imperial Court in Peking returned to St Petersburg after Nicholas’ visit inspired Fabergé to create a series of flower studies including the Lily of The Valley, Violets and Cornflowers. Many students of Fabergé’s work believe his flowers to be his very finest.

In 1900 the workshop and retail premises of the House of Fabergé moved to bigger premises on Bolshaya Morskaya Street. Carl had his own apartment ‘over the shop’. Output had to be stepped up and at its height the business employed over 300 jewelers, goldsmiths and stonemasons. The organisation of the business was divided into small teams under work-masters who operated and were incentivized by effectively running their own businesses under the Fabergé umbrella. A few were permitted to add their own initials to the company’s mark. Untypically for the time, the staff saw the benefit of an in-house doctor and a daily canteen.

In 1903 the House of Fabergé opened its first store in London, at 173 Bond Street. Fabergé’s objects become the gift for Edwardian lovers. Whether it was a simple bejeweled eyed rabbit given to a loved one at a country house party or a cigarette case in cobalt blue enamel with a diamond inlaid serpent biting its own tail, given by his “favourite”, Mrs. Kepple, to King Edward VII, the shop specialised in discrete gifts.

The growth and development of the Fabergé business was conducted in the rarified air of the Russian Imperial Court where the Royal Family’s tastes were excessive. They seemed oblivious to the suffering of more lowly Russians. Famine and cold killed many. The Winter Palace tragedy in 1905 seemed an inevitable turning point. By 1914, a year after the flamboyant celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the Russian Throne, Russia entered the First World War. Lacking a military training many of Fabergé’s skilled staff were killed in the early months of the war.

By 1917 the Russian Revolution was underway and the Bolsheviks nationalized the Fabergé business. Carl was said to be heart broken and left on the last diplomatic train out of St Petersburg and headed for Switzerland. He died in Lausanne 1920. Following his wife’s death, five years later, their son Eugene buried their ashes in neighboring graves in Cannes in the South of France.

To the shock of the civilized world, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were summarily executed in Yekaterinburg in 1918. Several of the female children had enormous quantities of diamonds sewn into their bodices off which bullets were said to ricochet.

Post 1918 many Russian aristocrats sought to sell their Fabergé pieces. USA dealers including Armand Hammer amassed vast collections that they returned to New York in the early 1930’s to sell. The newly rich, having recently emerged from the ashes of the Wall Street Crash into the Jazz Age, was a ready market.

Hammer was approached in 1937 by Russian émigré, Sam Reuben, who sought a name for his new perfume business, Hammer suggested Fabergé. This saw an explosion in the 1970’s of fragrance products bearing the Fabergé name often accompanied by sexy images of heartthrobs such as Farah Fawcett. In the mid 1980’s a TV advert featuring former heavyweight boxer, Henry Cooper, encouraged young men that “Nothing beat the great smell of Brut!”

The Fabergé family sued, seeking to protect their ‘name’. They settled for $25,000 and Reuben sold his business a few years later for $24m

It is hard to see how the worlds of Fabergé’s as the purveyor of fine court jewellery and the promoter of “Brut” to masses could have been more different!

In 2009 a group of financiers acquired the worldwide exploitation rights to the Fabergé intellectual property and have revived, with the aid of several small European artisan jewellers and members of the Fabergé family, a new jewellery business that is loyal to the qualities and tastes of the Founder.

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All of Aestheticons posts – aside from some imagery – are the original property and all rights are reserved. Copyright Mark FR Wilkins 2021

Triumph Stag

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My wife loves horse power, yet she is not much of a Petrol Head. However, she does drive a cute Mini Cooper but her absolutely favourite car is a burgundy coloured Triumph Stag.

As a kid my pal’s Dad had a Triumph 2.5 PI, with which he used, sorry other road users, to tow a caravan. Temperamental would probably be the best description of this car’s mechanics. Along with the guy ropes and tent pegs he’d carry a heavy rubber hammer. The normal assumption would be that this hammer would be used to see home the awning pegs – oh no…In an act of naked frustration this charming architect would administer the Petrol Injection system of his 2.5 a sound thwack – with the rubber hammer – in order to re-engage it to its primary purpose – to pump petrol!

The Triumph Stag – a 2+2 Convertible – launched in 1970, was spared the engine and fuel injection system of the PI and it was clad in well designed Italian loveliness. For me there were relatively few style icons of the 1970’s, certainly compared to the previous decade, but I am delighted to celebrate the Triumph Stag.

The Stag was blessed with a Triumph 3.0 litre V8 – increased to accommodate the then new and stringent US emission regulations – and in a production run lasting until 1978 nearly 26,000 were made and many were exported. It is believed that as many as 9000 survive today.

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The Stag was designed by Italian, Giovanni Michelotti, who’s reputation had already been cemented in the UK with the Triumph Herald, the GT6 and the Spitfire. His target was to compete with the sports models of Mercedes Benz. Harry Webster, Triumph’s then Director of Engineering, had given Michelotti a Triumph 2000 – the antecedent of the 2.5 PI – in the mid-1960’s an the Stag was conceived as a styling experiment with this car – common ancestry was noticeable and much of the Stag lines were incorporated into later Triumph 2000 models.

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In 1978 the Stag was “replaced ” by the unattractive Triumph TR7. The Triumph trademark is currently owned by BMW which was acquired in 1994 when BMW bought The Rover Group. BMW have retained the Triumph brand along with Mini and Riley. The Triumph brand last saw the light of day in 1984 isn’t it time for another successful revival?

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In an era of close links between TV/Film business and the car industry it comes as no surprise that James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever” relieves a diamond smuggler of his 1970 Triumph Stag. See here the car with its clear nod in the direction of the Ford Mustang with its “Stag” grill logo. See here our earlier piece on the iconic Ford Mustang Ford Mustang

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If you’d like to add a version of this splendid Bond car to your collection please link on the following AMAZON link –james bond 007 diamonds are forever triumph stag yellow film scene car 1.43 scale diecast model

The iconic Haynes Manual will get its own standalone Aestheticons’ post – but for now you may like to buy a copy of this classic publication that dissects the Triumph Stag.

Please click here for the AMAZON link Triumph Stag (70 – 78) Haynes Repair Manual

How about the accompanying T Shirt? Haynes Workshop Manual 0441 Triumph Stag Black Men’s T-Shirt

Adding a Triumph Stag mug to your collection is a winner – click here Triumph Stag Mug with Caption: “Life isn’t complete without a Triumph Stag” Mug ideal gift

Or how about the simple line drawn Triumph Stag T shirt, a great present for female fans:

Triumph Stag Black Women’s T-Shirt Size 10 (M) (White Print)

and for blokes

T34 Triumph Stag Brown/Hazelnut Men’s T-Shirt XXL (Black Print)

And don’t forget the kids!

T34 Triumph Stag Red Kids’ T-Shirt 11-12 Years (Black Print)

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Image credits with grateful thanks to Thoroughbred Cars and Haynes Manual

Porsche 911 Targa

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The Porsche Targa has the distinct characteristic of being is a semi-convertible car body style with a removable roof section and a full width roll bar behind the seats. The term was first used on the 1966 with the launch of the classic Porsche 911 Targa and the name, “Targa”, remains a registered trademark of Porsche AG.

The Porsche 911 coupe first debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963. Designed by Ferry Porsche, the son of the Porsche founder and his cousin, Ferdinand Piech, who developed the air-cooled flat-six engine. Launched as the 901, an objection from Peugeot who claimed naming rights to any three digit configuration with a zero in the middle resulted in Porsche renaming their new car the “911”.

Ferry on the launch of the Targa in 1965 described the car thus – “The Targa is neither a coupe nor a convertible”.

It is said that Porsche got the name, “Targa”, from the Targa Florino, a famous Sicilian road race. In Italian and Castellano, the word “Targa” means “number-plate”.

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The Targa style roof opening became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, resulting from fears that the US Department of Transportation (DOT) may ban convertibles because of safety concerns for the occupants should a car overturn.

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Over the years Porsche designs have varied. In 1996 the Porsche 993 Targa featured a retractable glass roof a design that continued into the 996 and 997 models. The glass roof retracted underneath the rear window revealing a large sky-facing opening. For me, in the earlier models of this style this gives the windscreen an almost too high pitch that affects the overall aesthetics of the car.

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The car received criticism as it was descriebed as a “coupe with a gigantic sun roof” – simply not what Porsche had intended and perhaps too far away from the core of this iconic car?

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With the introduction and production of more recent 911 Targa, including the Type 991, Porsche decided to take the latest Targa in a different direction from that of the previous water-cooled Type 996/997 cars.

Is 2014 car has somewhat returned to its earliest Targa roots by the utilizing of a solid roof panel spanning over the front seats which was mechanized for automated lift-away and storage under the rear glass roof, which itself is mechanized to lift up and out of the way as the roof panel is placed into its stowed position.

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Porsche seem to have decided that life should imitate art having produced a Targa that seems to take some design cues from a rather sophisticated toy from the late 1970’s. When I worked in the Christmas Holidays between University terms, I got myself a job at the now defunct Army & Navy Stores – a department store in Guilford (Surrey UK) in their Toy Department. I worked for a company called Bandai who were the licensees in the UK of the Transformer toy series. Those of you with either long memories or younger kids will know that Transformers were an amazing toy that “transformed” from a car to a Robot – for example – and subsequently has become a very successful film franchise. The range of car Transformers that I was selling – and I did hugely well outselling all other assistants – included a Porsche 911 in grey that transformed into a robot with green eyes. I still have one.

In August 2016 – the 50th Anniversary of its first Targa – Porsche announced an “Etna” blue Porsche Exclusive of the 911 Targa 4S Exclusive Design Edition – a collector’s edition!

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The 2018 version is here – quite possibly one of the most beautiful modern era Porsche Targas made.

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Our friends from Class Driver have recently posted the most remarkable film made by the Porsche Club of America about a secretive collection of over 65 Porsche cars dating from the late 1950’s to date each car being not only in pristine condition but all are uniquely painted white.

Enjoy the film here White Porsche Collection

STOP PRESS

In June 2020 Porsche announced that a new 2021 911 Targa 4S Heritage Design Edition would be a 992 example limited edition addition to the 2021 Porsche 911 Targa range.

With design clues culled from the last fifty plus years this special, which is yet to be given an indicator I’ve retail price (but its thought to be significantly in excess of the $120,000 that the base model commands) will no doubt fuel the enthusiasm for the Targa brand amongst a new generation of aficionados.

Each of the 992 luck owners will not only have a four-wheeled treasure they will also receive a Porsche Design Chronograph that takes their design influences from the early Porsche 911 speedometer dial. It comes complete with a strap of genuine Porsche seating hide.

One of five colour versions is the Cherry Metallic:

I defy any Porsche fan can control their passion for these fantastic vehicles – even a beautiful die-cast model should satiate some of the “must have one” moment. I have found the perfect two die-cast models – please click the Amazon link below the image in each case:

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Schuco 450035400 1:18 Scale Porsche 911 S Targa – 1972″ Model Car

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Porsche 911 (991) Targa 4S Metallic Blue 1: 18

You will need a range of various mechanical skills to maintain your 911 – built between 1965 -1989 – but you’ll also need a Haynes Manual – please click the Amazon link below the image

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Porsche 911, 1965-89 Coupe, Targa and Cabriolet Automotive Repair Manual (Haynes Automotive Repair Manuals)

The role of a Porsche in our lives cannot be understated. So celebrate your passion with this colourful T shirt – please click on the Amazon link below the image

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Dressdown Box 964 T 12 Colour Grid – Mens T-Shirt – White – XL

If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks

Image Credit – Porsche AG and the Porsche Club of America with grateful thanks.