For Whitewall‘s winter 2016 Lifestyle Issue, we speak with Fabergé Head of Design Natalia Shugaeva about the inspiration behind the historic house’s “Secret Garden” and “Four Seasons” collection.
WHITEWALL: Fabergé started a new chapter in 2007 with a relaunch of sorts, under new ownership reconnecting with the Fabergé family. How does the modern company relate to the historic house founded by Peter Carl Fabergé in 1842?
NATALIA SHUGAEVA: I think Fabergé has quite an interesting history as a jewelry brand. Part of the story is obviously the connection to the Romanovs, but what I think is important for us today is the emphasis on artistry and unique techniques. We don’t copy the past; instead, we imagine the creations that Peter Carl Fabergé would make today.
WW: So what are some of those technical and artistic techniques you use today from the brand’s history?
NS: Fabergé was the first one to be called an artist jeweler. The most important design codes of the house which we reinterpret today are color, layering, patterns, and proportions. In our “Secret Garden” collection, we used unusual color combinations that convey a painterly approach to color. It was all about finding the unique color combinations and this is where we looked at Chagall’s paintings for inspiration. It was a spontaneous approach to design, where I had hundreds of gemstones on my desk and I could pick and choose the perfect combination, and often it was something quite unexpected. And this is how an artist would approach painting, where often something happens by accident. For example, I discovered that Zambian emeralds have a more bluish tone, whereas Colombian emeralds have a more yellow tone.
And when we talk about layering techniques, in our high jewelry line we combine invisible settings with hand-painted enamel, for instance. This makes for pieces that are very rich but also very well-balanced compositions. When you pick up a piece of Fabergé jewelry and look at it from different angles, there is a harmony.
WW: How did you arrive upon the theme for your “Summer in Provence” collection?
NS: This particular region is very inspirational as Fabergé has many connections to Provence. Fabergé is a Franco-Russian jewelry house. The Fabergé family Huguents who came from France andmoved to Russia in the 19th century. So it’s always this mix between Russian culture and French influence. Peter Carl Fabergé was a great traveler and traveled all around Europe, including the South of France. At the end of the 19th century there was a train that brought fresh flowers to St. Petersburg from Grasse in Provence to decorate the ballrooms of the Imperial Palace.
WW: When designing watches, like for the “Summer in Provence” collection, how does it compare to designing high jewelry?
NS: I think it’s absolutely integral in a timepiece to keep the same philosophy as in jewelry. For the “Summer in Provence” series we created timepieces with matching suites of necklaces, earrings, and rings, to be worn separately or together. The timepiece features ribbons that flow from the dial to the case to the bracelet, entirely decorating the surface of the watch.
WW: Do you have a favorite piece you’ve designed thus far, or a piece that was especially challenging or rewarding?
NS: I think that would be the Secret Garden bracelet. The challenge was to create an exceptional piece, but use a variety of gemstone cuts and colors together. In some way, it’s almost like a painting with its layers. It has so many different exceptional gemstones—there are over 113 karats of fine and precious gemstones. It’s also a wearable piece of jewelry, so it had to be very comfortable. We used a very technical approach to achieve an almost fabric like flexibility to the bracelet. It completely embraces your wrist, without any kind of discomfort. It’s a very enjoyable piece to wear. And that piece features a special detail: On the back there is a tiny surprise in the shape of a ladybird. It’s a signature Fabergé twist to have some element of surprise or discovery in every creation.
WW: Can you tell us about the “Four Seasons” collection?
NS: “The Four Seasons” is a collection of objets d’arts. So we’ve designed four objets that are set with different colored gemstones, and for each season we have a different leading gemstone. Spring is a combination of emeralds; summer is multicolored sapphires; for autumn we have rubies with some purple sapphires; and for winter we have diamonds combined with aquamarine stones. Every stone has a different story to tell.
WW: Do you work with customers on creating bespoke jewelry pieces as well?
NS: I think it’s one of the most exciting parts of my role. When we manage to find exceptional colored stones for our clients to choose from, that’s even more exciting. It’s about realizing our clients’ vision, combined with a unique Fabergé touch, which has always been our philosophy, since Fabergé was famous for keeping his identity, as well as finding a personal connection to his clients.
This article was published in Whitewall‘s winter 2016 Lifestyle Issue, out now.