The most important feast of the Russian Orthodox church calendar is Easter. It is celebrated with the exchanging of eggs and three kisses. The Faberge eggs began in 1884 with an Easter egg made for the czar that became a gift for his wife, Czarina Maria. The Faberge eggs reminded the empress of her homeland, and so from then on it was agreed that Faberge would make an Easter egg each year for Maria. Faberge designed Easter eggs for another eleven years until Alexander III died. Then Nicholas II, Alexander's son, continued the tradition. It was agreed that the Easter gift would always have an egg shape and would hold a surprise. These projects became top priority of the company and were planned and worked on far in advance--a year or longer. The surprise was always kept secret.
The designs for the Imperial Faberge eggs were inspired by historical art works that Faberge imitated or copied from his travels or from the Hermitage. However, there is a poignant representation of what is now Russian history in the design of a number of these Faberge eggs. There were Faberge eggs to commemorate the coronation of Czar Nicholas II, the completion of the Trans Siberian Railway, and anniversaries. There were Faberge eggs depicting the Imperial yacht-Standart, the Uspensky Cathedral, the Gatchina Palace, and during the time of war, the Red Cross and the military.
Materials used by Faberge eggs included metals - silver, gold, copper, nickel, palladium - that were combined in varying proportions to produce different colors.
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