Fabergé & Gemfields’s Vertical Integration Results In Colorfully Synergistic Lady Libertine I
Say the name Fabergé and most people will immediately think of the Imperial Easter eggs – and for good reason, because even today the craftsmanship and detailed execution of those eggs are still breathtaking.
Fabergé was founded in 1842 by Gustav Fabergé, but it was his son Carl, that truly drove the family business to new heights. His restoration work on objects in the collection of the Hermitage Museum caught the attention of Tsar Alexander III. Taken with Fabergé’s work he bestowed upon him the title of “goldsmith by special appointment to the imperial crown” in 1885.
That same year he also commissioned his first Easter egg from Fabergé as a gift to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna. This became a yearly tradition, with Fabergé creating more than 54 eggs in total for the Russian court.
What makes them so special is that each egg seems to posess a soul of its own. This is thanks to the great variation among them, which is said to come from the fact that even the tsar himself did not know how the annual egg would look like before it was presented, as Fabergé was given complete artistic freedom.
The Russian Revolution ended the tradition of the imperial Easter eggs. However, it was revived in 2015 with the introduction of the Pearl Egg. Again, this was a breathtaking unique piece. However, instead of being created for Russia’s royalty, its new owner was Hussain Ibrahim Al-Fardan, a man from a family of one of the oldest and the most successful pearl traders in the Gulf region (see Fabergé Pearl Egg: The First Imperial-Class Egg In Nearly 100 Years).
Although the imperial Easter eggs will forever be firmly connected to the Fabergé name, this jeweler created a lot more than “just” eggs. Fabergé was also masterful in carving semi-precious gemstones. The attention to detail was stunning. One example constitutes flowers and leaves carved in a vase where water was simulated by the use of colorless rock crystal (quartz).
This is also why the merger in January 2013, between Fabergé and Gemfields, a mining and distributing corporation specialized in colored gemstones, made so much sense. It gave Fabergé unprecedented access to the highest quality of colored gemstones, while Gemfields would actually have the opportunity to be involved in the entire creation process, and not “only” as a supplier of colored gemstones.
It’s an example of vertical integration at its finest.
In terms of mining corporations, Gemfields is a bit of an outsider. Not in the way it mines the stones, but more so in the way it conducts its business. It combines ethical behavior with an environmental conscience, actually making this one of the pillars of the organization. This is unique because, although ethical behavior is actively stimulated by international standards and regulations for diamonds, it has yet to be very developed for colored gemstones.
Unearthing any type of precious stone has an impact on the environment. By combining knowledge with cutting-edge technology and ethical responsibility for actions, Gemfields limits its environmental impact to the absolute minimum.
Gemfields focuses on three very special stones: one is the amethyst. This may come as a surprise because low-grade amethyst has made its way to consumers in bijoux-types of jewelry for decades. However, you have not yet seen amethyst until you have seen a high-grade version of this stone. Its color is so deep and vibrant purple you would almost think that it has the power to resurrect Prince (which, unfortunately, it does not).
Then there is the ruby, a stone that has been held in high regard since ancient times. Its blood-red appearance has infatuated kings and queens, nobles, and common men alike for millenia. Rubies are a variety of corundum, just as sapphires are. The added element chromium gives rubies their prized red color.
The third precious stone Gemfields is specialized in, emerald, is of particular note. With its mystical green color, this stone is often not free from inclusions. Whereas with diamonds inclusions greatly influence value, with emeralds it makes up part of the character of the stone.
Gemfields is one of the largest producers of emeralds in the world.
The inclusion rate and color also makes grading colored gemstones a bit different from diamonds, because cut and carat weight have their impact on the value of a colored gemstone, but so has color.
Unlike for diamonds, it’s far more difficult to create a uniform grading system. Hue and saturation play a huge role as does the clarity of the stone. That is why with colored gemstones you often look at the overall picture instead of grading each item at a scale. The character of a stone is what ultimately determines its desirability on the market, and therefore its value.
Surprising Baselworld introduction
It’s also the emerald that was part of a surprising introduction by Fabergé at Baselworld 2016. Under the guidance of Fabergé’s director of timepieces, Aurélie Picaud, Gemfields’s finest emeralds were used in a watch that alludes to Fabergé’s unique expertise in carving gemstones.
The Fabergé Lady Libertine I was one of the stars of Baselworld 2016 together with the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ – and for good reason. “Say it with emeralds” would be a good catch phrase for this watch, since Fabergé’s craftspeople were able to create a small landscape by using this precious stone in a unique way. See Fabergé’s Visionnaire DTZ: A Surprising Way To Display A Second Time Zone for more on that watch.
The design of the dial, with its hands coming out from underneath a small dome positioned at its center, is actually inspired by the rolling hills of the Zambian landscape as observed from an airplane. Zambia is the country where Gemfields mines its emeralds.
The large, uniquely cut emeralds are shaped to form green rivers surrounded by sparkling brilliant-cut emeralds applied in a so-called snow setting, where precious brilliant-cut stones of different sizes are set seemingly at random. When this is done with colorless diamonds, it does indeed look like fresh, fallen snow. The result with emeralds is, however, completely different.
Thanks to the deep green hues of the precious stone and the way it is cut, the effect on the dial looks like you are flying over an impregnable tropical forest. It almost makes you look more closely, trying to hear monkeys and tropical birds.
Combined with the 18-karat pink gold of the case, the Lady Libertine I is a study in beautiful contrast. This is even enhanced by a few diamonds sprinkled among the snow-set gems as well as the diamonds set on the watch’s bezel.
With a diameter of only 36 mm it’s a very elegant watch, yet at the same time large enough to allow the observer to enjoy all the wonderful dial details and admire the craftsmanship it took to create it.
That craftsmanship can also be found on the inside of the watch, because just like the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ, this watch is powered by a manually wound movement developed by Agenhor (see First Look: The Surprising Movement Of The Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ Dual Time Zone).
Founded by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, Agenhor is the last piece of the puzzle where the “new” Fabergé is concerned.
Combined with the precious gemstones of Gemfields and the jewelry expertise of Fabergé, Agenhor adds high-quality, custom-designed and built movements to the mix, making this watch and others that carry the Fabergé label true haute horlogerie.
In a sense, the Fabergé Lady Libertine I brings it all together; it revitalizes the unique skills and expertise of Fabergé’s gemstone carvings and does so with the high-quality emeralds that were unearthed, cut, and polished by Gemfields.
Making it into a timepiece just adds an extra dimension to the experience, achieving not only vertical integration, but also colorful synergy.
For more information, please visit www.faberge.com/1689_faberge-lady-libertine-i.
Quick Facts Lady Libertine I
Case: 36 mm, pink gold set with a diamond bezel (1.84 ct)
Dial: 4.08 ct emeralds and 1.93 ct diamonds
Movement: Agenhor manually wound Caliber AGH 6911
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: upon request
Also published on Medium.