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A spotlight on outstanding women artists and their works in the Royal Collection

Albert Holmström (1876-1925)

The Mosaic Egg and Surprise 1914

RCIN 9022

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Born in Moscow, Alma Pihl was a prodigiously talented designer of jewellery for the Russian master goldsmith and jeweller Fabergé. The granddaughter of Carl Fabergé’s jeweller August Holmström and daughter of the goldsmith Knut Oscar Pihl, she worked as a trainee draughtsman for her uncle Albert Holmström, but largely taught herself to design jewellery. She was the first female employee of the Fabergé firm and designed a series of some 40 notable jewels inspired by the patterns made by ice crystals, which were purchased by the Swedish industrialist Dr Emanual Noble in 1911. 

In 1913 Alma designed a series of official presentation jewels, marking the Romanov dynasty’s tercentenary, which Emperor Nicholas II to give to prominent guests at the celebrations. In the same year she was responsible for designing two of the most celebrated of the fifty Imperial Easter Eggs made by the Fabergé firm – the Winter Egg of 1913 and the Mosaic Egg of 1914. Alma Pihl’s design for the Mosaic Egg was inspired by watching her mother-in-law working on cross-stich embroidery, an activity which was also enjoyed by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna to whom the egg was given by Nicholas II.