Jewelry art probably suffered more significant damage during the time of massive sales of cultural heritage by the Soviet government in the 1920-1930s than any other field of art. The acute shortage of funds faced by the young Soviet power gave birth to the idea of solving financial problems at the expense of cultural valuables, which led to a gaping lacunae in the history of art in general and of Russian jewelry art in particular. The Russian jewelry industry was unparalleled in the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century. Advances in production, as well as increased demand for valuables, led to the creation of true masterpieces in the jewelry field. Ten to twenty years later, the jewels were barbarically ripped out of these works of art. In the best cases, these invaluable monuments of art were sold abroad. The famous Easter eggs made by the House of Fabergé — one of the most outstanding examples of Russian jewelry art — were among the masterpieces made with precious stones and metals that were stolen from national treasuries and museums.
The Fabergé phenomenon interests people to this day. The jewelry company established by Carl Fabergé in St. Petersburg in the last quarter of the 19th century had a well-established structure and huge creative potential. The firm very quickly won worldwide recognition. The Fabergé style is inextricably linked with the aesthetics of historicism. The great jeweler formed his artistic tastes in the second half of the 19th century, when the trend was to pay special attention to the cultural heritage of previous eras. Carl Fabergé, being a dedicated fan of classic styles, was no exception. A perfect example is his Cockerel Egg, one of the centerpieces of the museum’s collection. The egg was given by Tsar Nicholas II as an Easter gift to his mother, the Empress Maria Fyodoronova, in 1900, and became a kind of tribute to the outgoing 19th century. Fabergé intricately mixed historical styles when designing the egg, creating a combination which was surprisingly harmoniously and simultaneously colorful, decorative and elegant in a Russian way. The unexpected juxtaposition of baroque plasticity, the graphic style of Louis XVI, and oriental motifs made the Cockerel Egg practically the benchmark work of art of the era of Historicism.
The House of Fabergé created goods of all different denominations, from relatively simple products to very unique works of art. The best pieces, of course, were the items made to order for rulers and the aristocracy, but this connection with the imperial house and the high society of pre-revolutionary Russia subsequently played a fatal role for the House of Fabergé’s heritage. In the 1920-1930's, during the mass sale of property and masterpieces from museums confiscated by the Soviet government, a huge number of works with the Fabergé brand were either destroyed or sold abroad. This is why the most significant collection of works by the famous St. Petersburg jewelry house was started outside Russia.
In 1960, the American media magnate Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) purchased a gold Fabergé cigarette case at an antique gallery. Forbes was a passionate collector of Fabergé rarities over the next thirty years, amassing a collection of more than three hundred Fabergé pieces. But following his death, his unique collection started to be sold off. First single pieces began to appear at auctions, but then the whole Forbes collection was put on sale by his heirs in February 2004. The integrity of this unique art was saved only by the Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who completely bought out the Forbes collection, thereby re-filling a once-devastated niche in the cultural heritage of Russia.
Mr. Vekselberg established the Link of Times Foundation, which today possesses the Fabergé collection. This collection is unique in its size, typological and stylistic diversity, and is noteworthy for the highest level of mastery of its works, many of which have memorial significance. The core of the collection are the Easter eggs created by the orders of the Russian Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894) for his wife Maria Fyodorovna and his son, and by his successor, Nicholas II (1868-1918), for his mother and for his wife - the last Russian Empress, Alexandra Fyodorovna, the fourth daughter of Louis IV, Grande Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt.
The longtime Christian custom of giving dyed and painted Easter eggs became a real industry in the second half of the 19th century in Russia. Luxurious eggs made from porcelain, glass, semi-precious stones, and precious metals became real works of art. Fabergé Easter eggs, which were unparalleled in the originality of their ideas and craftsmanship, were the highest achievement of this genre.