When you think of the name Faberge, what image comes to mind? An imperial egg created for the Russian Royal family is a common image brought to mind when mentioning this famous jewelry house. The first images in the movie, Faberge: A Life of Its Own, took the viewer to an abandoned and run down house near Saint Petersburg. There were no diamonds, enamel or gold to view as the viewer got to understand the real meaning and splendor of Faberge.
The house belonged to the Faberge family. The family fled going abroad during the Revolution that overturned the Russian Royal family. The house was vandalized as those that stayed behind looked for anything of value to sell. Before the house was turned into a state of disarray, Faberge’s family enjoyed an almost fairytale existence, creating objects of art for wealthy families all over the world. There are several books to read to find out more of these stories of Faberge’s clients. This focus of this article is on the marketing that Faberge used and his personal beliefs in how to run his business that I feel get overlooked when recounting Faberge’s history.
Three areas of the jewelry business that put Faberge ahead of his time:
- Marketing~ One story from the film told how Peter Carl Faberge sold small objects that were reasonably priced so that it was affordable to a wider audience. The items were not low priced but by making smaller pieces, other people besides royalty, could afford these small luxuries. Another strategy was that these items could be bought in multiples for gifts. Faberge did not do the giving but instead had the clients endorse his product. The Tsarina entered Faberge’s shop and bought a single pair of cufflinks for her husband the Tsar. The gift went over so well and the price was reasonable that the Tsarina went back and bought more cufflinks as gifts. This opened the door to opportunities to create other small objects as gifts to foreign countries raising more awareness of the brand.
- Getting the basics perfect~ The small objects had just as much care over appearance and quality as the high end items commissioned for the Tsar. If these items were going out into the world no matter how small or who owned them they were in perfect condition. A testimony of this is due to the amount of Faberge items still purchased at auction or through second hand vendors that have withstood the test of time. The small object such as animals and flowers have an almost lifelike quality to them that is hard to find anywhere else. I believe that is one of the reasons Faberge for his first egg presented to the Tsar and Tsarina in 1885, created a simple gold chicken with two charms inside as a surprise and a clean, smooth, white shell egg to contain it. Getting the basics perfect is an art and Faberge had mastered it.
- Well managed employees~ Long before workers’ rights and fair wages, Faberge had created a system that gave freedom to his employees and created a safe, pleasant work environment. Faberge housed all his workers in a large studio in St. Petersburg above the store. They had proper ventilation, light and an on-site doctor to care for them. The way Faberge set up his management system was that his managers were given the rights to put their mark alongside the house mark as a way to give credit to the team. The film looked at it as the manager running their own small business. The amount of workers under the same roof at one time was about 300, a large number for one person to manage so the work had to be delegated. Faberge knew that the workers needed to feel appreciated and have a sense of pride in their work, in order to maintain the quality needed for the thousands of items produced each year.
Faberge built a name that equaled the meaning of luxury and high quality. Another interesting fact the movie brought up was that the Faberge perfumes, shampoos and other consumer items had no ties to the original Faberge. It was a name decided on by two men discussing a marketing plan. A name with such recognition would be a great boost to getting it noticed. The Faberge family sued but won very little money from the case. An investment company bought the rights to the Faberge brand, which refocused it to return to fine jewelry and brought the Faberge family back into the business. However, had it not been for the original founder’s great skill in business and craftsmanship the comeback would have been more difficult.
Faberge has made a comeback, it has embraced this new age and managed to hold on to its traditions. Faberge is online and is selling some of its jewelry through this online platform. It also has 17 locations that sell their jewelry, 4 of which are Faberge boutiques. Faberge has hosted an Easter egg hunt for the past three years in locations like London and New York, with an app to track your progress and learn fun facts. It has also continued to make the imperial eggs it was famous for. This past spring a private collector bought the first imperial egg created since World War I. The movie had more views and explained that this was the first video viewing of the egg. Also an egg that was considered lost after the Revolution was recovered by someone in the Midwest that purchased the egg at a flea market. It was a great ending to the movie seeming both the old and new embrace by the House of Faberge. The movie had beautiful images of the jewelry, lots of history and also showed a promising future for this incredible brand.