Toby Faber - author and lecturer

Fabergé's Eggs

Purchase book in USWhile my first book on Antonio Stradivari was going through the publishing process, I spent a few months working on a follow-up idea which interested me. Unfortunately, it didn’t interest my British publishers, who wanted me to build on Stradivarius’s modest success, either with a book on classical music, or with one on craftsmanship. Classical music writing is a crowded field, where I have no particular expertise, so I started to think about what other craftsmen there were with the same iconic name as Stradivari, and whose creations had histories as interesting as Stradivari’s violins. Fabergé’s imperial Easter Eggs were the obvious example. 
Purchase book in UKPurchase book in UK
What surprised me while I was writing the book was how much I would grow to appreciate Fabergé’s work, and how absorbed I would become by the whole tragic history of the Romanovs who were his greatest patrons. The eggs themselves are, in many cases, ridiculous objects – vulgar and entirely over-the-top. Nevertheless, they are also works of art that have to be seen in the flesh to be properly appreciated. Photographs can never do them justice. Faberge’s Eggs has been published in the UK (where it is also available as an audiobook) and the US, and is due to be published in Brazil and Russia. 

What follows is an uncut version of the jacket copy from the US edition, together with quotes from reviews and other authors.

In Stradivari’s Genius, Toby Faber charted the fascinating course of some of the world’s most prized musical instruments. Now, in this enthralling new book, he tells the story of objects that are, to many, the pinnacle of the jeweler’s art: the Fabergé Imperial eggs.


The Easter presents that Russia’s last two Tsars gave to their Tsarinas have become synonymous with privilege, beauty, and an almost provocative uselessness. Now they are perhaps the most redolent symbols of the old empire’s phenomenal craftsmanship, of the decadence of its court, and of the upheavals that brought about its inevitable downfall. Fabergé’s Eggs is the first book to recount their remarkable story, taking us from the circumstances that inspired each egg’s design, through their disappearance in the trauma of revolution, to their eventual reemergence in the markets of the world.


In 1885, Fabergé created an apparently plain white egg for Tsar Alexander III to give to his beloved wife, Marie Fedorovna, It was the ‘surprises’ hidden inside that made it special: a golden yolk that further concealed a hen, a diamond miniature of the Imperial crown and a ruby pendant. The gift began a tradition that would last for over three decades and that would send Fabergé on a relentless search for novelty, exploiting and extending almost every jewelry technique and style available.  The designs that resulted would inevitably reflect the lives and characters of the empresses who received them. Lavishly extravagant eggs commemorate public events that now seem little more than staging posts on the march to revolution. Others contrast Marie’s joie de vivre with the shy and domestic spirituality of her daughter-in-law, Alexandra. The muted austerity of the final few eggs seems all too appropriate for a country fighting for survival in the First World War. Above all, the eggs illustrate the attitudes that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Romanovs: their apparent indifference to the poverty that choked their country; their preference for style over substance and their all-consuming concern with the health of the sickly heir – a preoccupation that would propel them toward Rasputin and the doom of the dynasty.


But Fabergé’s Eggs is more than a superb new account of a classic tragedy. By following the eggs after they were lost in the Communist maelstrom, it illuminates some fascinating aspects of twentieth century history. The eggs’ amazing journey from revolutionary Russia has a cast of characters that includes embattled Bolsheviks, desperate for foreign exchange, acquisitive British royals, eccentric artifact salesmen, and such famous business and society figures as Armand Hammer, Marjorie Post, and Malcolm Forbes. Finally, Toby Faber tantalizingly suggests that some of the eggs long thought lost may eventually emerge.


Darting from the palaces of a besieged Russia to the showcases of New York’s modern mega-wealthy—and illustrated with ravishing photos—Fabergé’s Eggs weaves a story unparalleled in its drama and extravagance. It cements Faber’s growing reputation as an ingenious author who can write the world’s history through its most treasured objects.

 ‘Mr. Faber wisely doesn't turn his story into a grim portrait of unfeeling excess. Instead, he tells a vivid, engrossing tale, describing, for instance, the rise and fall of Rasputin, the czarina's confidant, and giving a harrowing account of the final miserable months of Nicholas II and his family. We see them, prisoners in Siberia, hand-decorating Easter eggs that had been donated by sympathetic villagers, before being shot.’
- Joseph Tartakovsky, The Wall Street Journal

‘“Happy vulgarity,” indeed. This is Toby Faber's felicitous phrase for the aesthetic sensibility that prevailed in St. Petersburg before the Russian Revolution, the era that made Carl Fabergé the master of the overdone Easter egg and jeweler to the Romanov czars.’
- Maria Puente, USA Today

‘What a great idea for a book this is - and how well executed. Toby Faber has produced, at just the right length to suit it, a hugely enjoyable and informative account of the making and afterlife of the jeweller's art.’

- Sam Leith, Spectator

‘[A] gossipy, delightful history . . . Like the eggs themselves, Faber's book has multiple layers with a social history of pre- and post-revolutionary Russia, in which Rasputin and Lenin both have walk-on parts; much fascinating details about late 19th-century art and design; and incisive insights into the stupidity and cupidity of the avaricious rich.’

- Sunday Telegraph 

'It's hard not to enjoy Faber's infectious and playful interest in the life and times of these kitsch emblems'
- The Times

'Toby Faber describes the eggs in loving detail . . . [they] provide a symbol both of the Romanovs' humanity and their tastelessly lavish lifestyles . . . Faber follows the fates of each individual egg with the zeal of a detective.'
- Independent on Sunday
'Toby Faber intriguingly illuminates the links between the respectable economics of the antique collectable and the shadier power of the fetish object . . . Faber deftly reveals those glittering, diamond-hard shells have always hidden a grim emptiness'

- Guardian

 ‘Toby Faber's book, "Faberge's Eggs," tells the epic story of how their intricate craftsmanship, garish beauty and unique reputation took them from tsarist Russia to capitalist America and back, passing on the way through the hands of owners as colorful as the eggs themselves….It's a lively, enthralling read: The narrative rarely loses pace or interest, and his personal fascination with the eggs comes through strongly…’
- James Marson, The Moscow Times

‘…riveting…Mr. Faber… has a gift for explaining what constitutes a world treasure and a novelist's understanding of dramatic narrative’
- Carol Herman, The Washington Times 

‘Toby Faber…spins an exciting tale in Faberge's Eggs, with political figures like Rasputin as well as collectors from Queen Mary to Marjorie Merriweather Post.’

- Fern Siegel, New York Post 

‘Excellent book . . . This is a fascinating book. I enjoyed Faber's way of weaving the story of the Faberge family and their bejewelled eggs into the tragic story of the Romanovs . . . a cracking read.’

-   Sunday Herald (Glasgow)


‘Faber recognizes that the facts surrounding the eggs are more than a match for any myth…By the end of this beguiling book, it is hard to feel that the American billionaire Malcolm Forbes was overly deluded when he drove up the price of the eggs in the 1960s.’

- Frances Welch, Literary Review 

‘Allure, tragedy and mystery surround Carl Fabergé's fabulous Easter eggs, the subject of Toby Faber's Fabergé's Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces That Outlived an Empire. As in his previous book, Stradivari's Genius, Faber explores what befalls exquisite objects when they leave a creator's hands to be sold into the world. In this well-crafted, well-told tale, Faber's enthrallment with provenance reappears as he transports readers into Fabergé's workshops, the decadent Romanov imperial courts, Russia's revolutionary upheavals, the pre-World War II Golden Age and beyond.’


‘Faber moves beyond mere description and illustration as he traces the fascinating history and sociology of these turn-of-the-century status symbols.'

‘Faber … describes the eggs in loving, mouthwatering detail…a tantalizing read’
Publishers Weekly

‘Surprisingly fascinating.’


‘[A] fascinating chronicle . . . illustrated with some remarkable photographs.’

- Hull Daily Mail

‘What a well written tale it is . . . highly readable and well researched.’

- Western Daily Press

‘An engrossing history of the eggs and the turbulent times in which they were made’

- Antiques Magazine

‘Faber's is the first book to tell the story of the Faberge eggs against the background of their time . . . It's a fascinating tale.’

- Leicester Mercury

‘If you're interested in the world-famous Faberge eggs and what happened to them after the Tsar's family were murdered in 1917, Faberge's Eggs is for you.’

- Sunday Post


‘Toby Faber’s writing is as brilliantly crafted as the priceless objets the history of which he chronicles herein.  It is particularly apt that Toby Faber he should so well tell the tale of the Forbes family’s Fabergé collecting as my late father’s passion for the Russian master jeweler’s creations was largely fueled by Faber and Faber’s publication over half a century ago on Kenneth Snowman’s pioneering work, The Art of Peter Carl Fabergé.’
- Christopher Forbes, Vice Chairman, FORBES. 

‘Toby Faber’s carefully researched and comprehensive account of the fifty jewelled Easter eggs made by Carl Fabergé for the Russian royal family between 1885 and 1917 tells a fascinating story which combines unique decorative art, contemporary culture, history, and the murder of the Romanovs with the excitement of a crime novel.  Today these eggs have become exotic symbols of their period and it is Toby Faber’s achievement to bring to life these beautifully-wrought artefacts, which have become symbols of the extravagancies and tragedies of their age.
- P. D James

‘This is a Faberge's egg of a book - a rich, delicious and entertaining examination of the very definition of luxury, from the vanished world of Empresses and Grand Dukes to today's oil-rich Kremlin and Oligarchs.’
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of
Young Stalin

‘Mr Faber’s detailed account of the work of the Fabergé jewellers in Imperial Russia and after provides not only a fascinating history of a unique artistic achievement, but also an unexpected insight into Russian history before, during, and after the Russian Revolution.  Now that wealthy Russian connoisseurs are engaged in repatriating this significant element in Russia’s heritage, his This valuable book affords a unique perspective on artefacts which perhaps more than any other enshrine the wealth and beauty of pre-revolutionary Russian art.’
- Nikolai Tolstoy, historian and biographer

 ‘... an engrossing and compelling account of the story of Faberge's Imperial Easter Eggs during the Romanov Empire and the next one hundred years - the historical narrative tells the fascinating story in an easily read style...’

 - Christel Ludewig McCanless, co-author of Faberge Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopaedia

‘Few jewels have attracted the mystery and aura now attached to the famous Faberge eggs. They reflect not only the deep love of a Tsar for his Tzarina but also the unfolding tragedy of the Romanoffs. As Toby Faber points out in this fascinating detective story, “they have been smuggled past border guards, been used to repay favors among Communist sympathisers  and been stolen from an exhibition,  -- only to be recovered months later in a high speed car chase” - Truth really is stranger than Fiction.’
- William Clarke, author of The Lost Fortune of the Tsars