A Fabergé gold-mounted carved purpurine miniature pendant egg, ST Petersburg, circa 1908-1917. The deep red purpurine body contained in a mount of double gold anchors. Height: 7/8 in. (2.2 cm).
This design, and versions of it, were popular with members of the Imperial family, many of whom served in the Imperial navy or were enthusiastic yachtsmen. Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, for example, gave his wife Grand Duchess Xenia a number of jeweled miniature egg pendants with naval motifs. Purpurine, a vivid opaque matte red glass, has long been among the most desirable of materials; the intense color often leads viewers to believe that it is a hardstone rather than glass. In Russia, purpurine was first made at the Imperial Glass Factory by Leopoldo Bonafede (1833-1878). Beginning around 1890, Fabergé’s workmasters began using a purpurine of an entirely different formula and it has been suggested that the formula might have been provided to him by Sergei Petukhov, a chemist at the Imperial Glass Factory (see H.C. Bainbridge, Peter Carl Fabergé: His Life and Work, London, 1949, 54), although later investigations have not borne out this supposition. On Fabergé’s purpurine, see R.R. Harding, et al, “The Composition of an Opaque Red Glass used by Fabergé,” The Journal of Gemmology 1989, vol. 21, no. 5: 275-287.
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