Most people might think it was Carl Fabergé himself that created all the beautiful things in his shop, but this was not the case. He did design many of the products, but for the actual realization of his ideas he had a huge team of specialists in different parts of the execution, divided between several workshops. These shops were each led by a workmaster, who had the right to sign all the finished goods that left their shops. Two of these were Mikhail Perkhin and Henrik Wigström, in whom's shops most of Fabergé's famous eggs were created. Under the watchful eyes of these workmasters worked in general around forty specialists, plus forty to sixty apprentices in each workshop. In 1914, when Fabergé was at the hight of his career, his business incorporated more than five hundred people!
|Fabergé workshop. Source|
Fabergé was never satisfied with anything but the best, so he hired the best goldsmiths, jewelers, stone carvers and miniaturists he could find. These people then executed the part on an object for which he had expertise. This meant that every object went through many hands, before it was put together - by yet another group of putting-together-experts. The result was technical perfection!
As I mentioned last week, the artistic creativity and the fantasy of the creator meant the most to Fabergé. Each object created in his shops should be like a small piece of art, which he himself called Objets de fantasie. This was something held in mind even when his firm started creating objects for everyday use. The functional or practical part of for example a cigarette case, a snap fastener, a bell, or a little frame, was just an excuse to create luxurious objects of art.
|Fabergé cigarette cases. Source|
But Fabergé didn't just want the best experts working for him, he also wanted them to use the best methods known while executing their meticulous jobs. If he wanted a special feature done on an object, for which knowledge didn't exist during his time, he simply demanded that his workmen sat down and invented a new technique that gave the object the look he had in mind. This was especially applied to the art of enameling. During this time most jewelers only used the techniques and colors that were known of - that they knew how to do. But not Fabergé! Through experimentation his workshop developed new techniques that allowed the enameling of for example round object, which had been really tricky before, and they came in the end to have over one hundred and forty different shades of color to work with!
|Fabergé brooch. Source|
This resulted in the fact that Fabergé's enameled accessories became so popular among the ladies in London, that they waited to order their ball gowns for the next ball-season until they knew what colors Fabergé's new collection would come in. So they matched their dresses after their jewelry, and not the way around!
The perfection of workmanship that was reached in Fabergé's shop was completely unique. The problem is that the documents containing the secrets they used to create these little works of wonder are gone. This means that we - not even today - know what different techniques were used in the making of these Objets de fantasie...