Founded in 1842 by Gustav Fabergé, a descendant of French Protestants who fled to Russia from the Picardy region of northeast France sometime in the 17th
century, the jewelry company achieved great success, partly due to its location in the center of St. Petersburg and the passion for all things French that was deeply rooted in Russian society at that time. But Fabergé's fame was mostly due to the superior quality the firm offered. That said, the sketches made by the founder himself show that, while a capable jeweler, the elder Fabergé was not especially inventive by the standards of his time.
In 1872, Gustav's son Peter Carl Fabergé took over as the head of the family business. Despite his young age – he was barely 26 – Carl was already an experienced jeweler who had studied in Europe, visiting Germany, France and Italy and picking up skills and traditions from the best of the best, according to Caroline Charron, author of Fabergé: From the Court of the Czar to Exile
. During his stay in Europe, Carl learned to work with decorative glass, opal, amethyst and other materials that were not widely used by jewelers at the time.
But the young Fabergé did not stop there: Willing to acquire the skills of the artisans of yore, he offered his services to St. Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum
, repairing and restoring jewelry from its collections free of charge, which eventually allowed him to master old techniques.