History of the Fabergé Family
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26th September 1922 – 20th August 2007
THEO FABERGÉ, the last surviving grandson of Russian Imperial Jeweller Carl Fabergé, passed away peacefully on 20 August 2007 in St Leonard’s-on-Sea in his 85th year.
Carl Fabergé had 5 sons, the last of whom Nikolai - always referred to as Nicolas and so-named to mark the death of his deceased infant brother also Nikolai – being sent to England to represent the family business in 1903. When the Russian revolution took place Nicolas understandably elected to remain in London, and following the closure of the Bond Street shop established himself as one of England’s first fashion photographers. Nicolas’s only child Theo was born in 1922.
Theo Fabergé was brought up in Twickenham and served in the RAF in North Africa in World War II. He established a successful engineering business in the 1960s. He had developed an early interest in decorative objects and was a prolific craftsman long before he was aware of his ancestry. It was only in 1969 after a family funeral that he was given a clue as to his true origin. A visit to Somerset House confirmed his father’s identity and Theo, with his passion for objets d’art, found from his birth certificate that he was Theo Fabergé.
Theo Fabergé furthered his turning skills particularly with an 1861 Holtzappfel ornamental lathe which he restored. He made an ivory casket for the Silver Jubilee in 1977, resulting in the award of the Gertrude Crawford Medal and in his election as Freeman Prizeman of the Worshipful Company of Turners. He developed techniques employing precious metals, enamel and gemstones. He established a workshop but initially refused to make eggs in deference to his grandfather. It was only the chance comment “Why, Mr Fabergé, you’re making eggs!” by a visitor who saw him turning a piece of yew-wood as a gift for an 8-year old boy, that persuaded him. The result was an early collection of objets d’art, each one personally made by Theo Fabergé – even grandfather Carl had rarely crafted his fabulous creations himself.
Given complexities surrounding the use of the name “Fabergé”, ‘St Petersburg Collection’ was the name chosen in 1986 for the business established to represent Theo Fabergé’s designs and creations. With a gallery, a stone’s throw away from Nicolas Fabergé’s premises, an enthusiastic group of collectors was formed and the production of small-series limited editions flourished. Marshall Field’s department store in Chicago witnessed the launch of the collection in U S A which became a thriving market for Theo Fabergé, who made many visits to America where he was very popular.
A proud moment in Theo’s career was when, accompanied by his daughter and grandson, he attended the White House for the launch of the White House Egg commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the building of the Presidential residence.
A quiet and unassuming man, Theo Fabergé’s modesty belied his delight both in his distinguished ancestry, and in his favourite craft of wood-turning. Determined never to copy his grandfather Carl, the first wristwatches in the family history contained the ultimate Fabergé surprise – unlike every other product in a strongly commercialised market-place, they bore no brand-name; just an egg in the guilloché enamelled dial, to reveal this most distinguished of provenance. Theo displayed his Watches alongside a magnificent fobwatch made for the last Tsar by his grandfather, at his 80th birthday party in London at which the Worshipful Company of Turners of London presented him with their Honorary Liverydom – the first such award since Prime Minister Gladstone’s.
In 2003 Theo experienced the first of a series of small strokes and came to live in a home near his daughter and grandson. He maintained a keen interest in the art of turning. His only daughter Sarah bears forward the Fabergé name, and continues the family tradition.