The famous Peter Carl Fabergé workshop in St Petersburg, designed and produced a total of 50 unique handmade bejeweled Easter Eggs for the Russian Royal Family from 1885 - 1917. Fabergé was an astute businessman who employed some of the best craftsmen in the industry. He and his staff were given complete design freedom and carte blanche to create the eggs. Each egg typically took a year to make.

Alma Pihl was a rarity - one of only two female designers in the company.  Her Finnish grandfather, August Holmström, was Faberge's lead jeweler. She was the niece of the other female designer, Hilma Alina Holmström. Her uncle and brother were also master jewelers.

She was a gifted artist and started working at Fabergé's in 1909 as a draughtswoman. The workshops of the time always had watercolor sketches of each design.  But her uncle noticed her personal design sketches which also impressed Fabergé himself. She was trained for a year as a jewelry designer.

A couple of years later, Dr Emanuel Nobel of the Nobel Oil empire, commissioned 40 brooches to be used as gifts.  Alma was inspired by the frost on the window which was backlit by sunlight. The result were snowflake brooches and that led to a range of beautiful frosty designs such as this one :

And this beauty :

Picture Credit : Faberge

That winter wonderland theme eventually led to Alma's design of the Winter Easter Egg with its basket of flowers surprise. It was commissioned in 1913 as a present from the Tsar Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. The Winter Easter Egg was the most expensive one ever made. The egg left Russia after the 1917 revolution. It is now in the private collection of the Emir of Qatar.

Picture credit : Christie's

The 4-inch high egg resembles frost on glass and was made from quartz, platinum and orthoclase. The egg rests on a block of rock crystal carved to look like melting ice with "rivulets' of diamonds. 1,660 diamonds were used for the egg. The miniature surprise flower basket in platinum and gold features even more diamonds - 1,378 in total. The wood anemone flowers were made from white quartz and rest on gold moss.The leaves were demantoid. 

The following year, Alma designed the exquisite Mosaic Egg which given to the Tsarina Alexandra. Her mother-in-law's tapestry was the inspiration. It was a technically challenging project for the master jewelers, led by Albert Holstrom, Alma's uncle. Precious metals such as yellow gold and platinum were used. The pavé set gemstones varied given the colors needed for the petit point look of the design. These included diamonds, rubies, emerald, topaz, half pearls, moonstone as well as enamel. 

Screen Capture from V&A video

This egg is now in the Royal Collection of Great Britain. The video at the end shows the exquisite details of this egg and its surprise - a cameo brooch on a pedestal featuring the Royal couple's 5 children. 

After the revolution, Alma and her husband fled Russia and lived out their lives in Finland where her family originally came from. 

Watch this Victoria and Albert Museum video "Fabrege's Rare Gem : Alma Pihl" presented by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, a Finnish author and scholar,  herself a great-granddaughter of St Petersburg goldsmith Alexander Tillander, a supplier to the Russian imperial court. She has spent many years studying the art of the St Petersburg jewellers and recounts Alma's incredible story in this short. 

Royal Collection : The Mosaic Imperial Easter Egg presented by Caroline de Guitart, the Curator of Decorative Arts. Queen Elizabeth II does not personally own anything in the Royal Collection which is held in trust for her successors and the nation.  


Before You Go:


This blog may contain affiliate links. I do receive a small fee for any products purchased through affiliate links. This goes towards the support of this blog and to provide resource information to readers. The opinions expressed are solely my own. They would be the same whether or not I receive any compensation. 
Original Post by THE BEADING GEM