Fauxbergés:
Ilya Abelsky’s Egg Art Arrives in Canada

No, they're not real, it's true, but Russian-American jeweller Ilya Abelsky's Faberge-like creations have one significant advantage: Most people can actually afford to buy one.

||| THE ROMANOVS ||| REIGN OF NICHOLAS II ||| ROYAL RUSSIA NEWS ||| ROYAL RUSSIA VIDEOS |||
|||
VISIT OUR ROMANOV BOOKSHOP ||| ROMANOV & RUSSIAN LINKS ||| WHAT'S NEW @ ROYAL RUSSIA & GILBERT'S ROYAL BOOKS |||
||| RETURN TO ROYAL RUSSIA - DIRECTORY ||| RETURN TO WELCOME TO ROYAL RUSSIA |||
Ilya Abelsky spent his boyhood in St. Petersburg, back when it was called Leningrad. His grandmother would sneak him glimpses of the eggs she'd painted for Easter only after he promised not to tell anyone; they included religious iconography, which was liable to get the family in hot water under the Soviet regime. "If you're a kid, five, six, seven years old and you're told, ‘It's a secret that nobody can know and if you promise not to tell, we're going to show you,' that gives it some kind of mystique," Abelsky says, explaining how his lifelong connection with egg art was hatched.

Times changed in the late 1980s; a crack of freedom meant Abelsky could get himself an exit visa, and he promptly left home for the United States. He settled in Atlanta and established a company with the unfortunate name of Eggstravaganza in 1989, which organized a six-person network of ethnically Russian craftspeople (including himself) scattered around the world to create jewelled, Fabergé-style eggs in miniature for Western markets. Just as the egg symbolizes new life, eggs represented a new life for the jewellery maker.

Abelsky's journey has now taken him on his first-ever visit to Canada. Visitors to a midtown Toronto jewellery store between now and Saturday can lay eyes on around 800 of his company's jewelled and enamelled eggs, most no larger than a man's thumbnail and many looped at the top so they can be worn as pendants.

The eggs typically cost in the hundreds of dollars, a mere speck compared to the larger, now-priceless ones Peter Carl Fabergé would give as gifts to the Romanov dynasty before the Russian Revolution put a stop to such, er, eggstravagances.

Abelsky counts among his favourites egg designs featuring traditional Russian symbols like Byzantine crosses and double-headed eagles. However, any crosses on the eggs are of purely traditional significance for Abelsky, who has rediscovered his Jewish roots and beliefs since he emigrated to the U.S. (Eggstravaganza also offers eggs with Jewish symbols, such as stars of David and chais.)

Eggs with American iconography are also part of the collection. One egg, hastily designed in September 2001, opens up to reveal a tiny set of World Trade Center towers.

Designs that open up to reveal a surprise inside are the biggest crowd-pleasers, Abelsky says. "But I don't want to reveal the surprises because I want people to say a magic three letters - I go to different countries, but when people see the eggs, they always say, ‘wow.' "

The National Post
18 November, 2009