Paying homage to the story of an exquisite onyx polar bear, produced in 1909, Fabergé is proud to introduce the new Heritage Rose Gold and Blue Guilloché Enamel Locket with Polar Bear Surprise. Launching in time for the festive season, this adorable addition to the Heritage collection celebrates Fabergé’s love for surprise and wit. The egg pendant is crafted from 18k rose gold, decorated with midnight blue guilloché enamel and set with 15 brilliant cut white diamonds. Inside, a white gold polar bear encased in white enamel with black diamond eyes sits regally atop a glistening agate base.
This locket is inspired by a special bear, whose story links European aristocracy and one of America’s most revered families, the Vanderbilts. Offered in Christie’s London’s Important Russian Art sale on 27th November 2017, a five-inch-long onyx polar bear came to the specialists in its original wood case which was stamped with the inscription ‘B.G. Scotland. 1909.’
White onyx model of a polar bear, by Peter Carl Fabergé, courtesy of Christie’s
The significance of the rare inscriptions on the case intrigued Christie’s and led them to investigate the story behind the piece. Christie’s knew that the bear had once belonged to the de Ganays, a French noble family, and that the initials “B.G.” possibly stood for Marquise Berthe de Ganay, but the significance of Scotland and the year were still yet to be uncovered. However, the fact that the piece had been owned by a French aristocrat suggested it had been purchased from Fabergé’s London boutique, which was enormously popular with European royal and aristocratic families.
And indeed, the London boutique ledgers revealed that on 10th September 1909, a ‘Polar Bear, white onyx’ was purchased for £26 by Virginia Fair Vanderbilt, wife of William Kissam Vanderbilt II. Interestingly, the records also show that Mrs Vanderbilt was accompanied by Martine-Marie-Pol, Countess of Béarn, the sister of Berthe de Ganay suggesting that Virginia Vanderbilt sought the Countess’ advice on an appropriate gift for her sister.
Fabergé’s ledgers, courtesy of Christie’s
This discovery, however, still did not explain the significance of ‘Scotland’, and the relationship between Virginia Fair Vanderbilt and Berthe de Ganay remained unclear. That was until a 1909 article from The American Register revealed that Virginia Fair Vanderbilt and the Marquise Berthe de Ganay were at Beaufort Castle, Scotland, along with their husbands, in August of that year.
The timing of Berthe de Ganay and Virginia Vanderbilt’s stay in Scotland, one month before the purchase of the white onyx polar bear, suggests that this polar bear was gifted to Berthe de Ganay as a memento of their joint holiday.
Fabergé provided luxurious presents to elites from all over the world, and was renowned for his quirky little animals, created from hardstone as charms and ornaments; art historians describe them as possessing ‘psychologically interpretive aspects’. The accentuation of specific characteristics of each subject also gave them distinctive personalities. Fabergé often combined these hardstones with precious metals and coloured gems, seamlessly integrating each with the other to create miniature works of art.
The Fabergé Heritage Rose Gold Blue Guilloché Enamel Polar Bear Surprise Locket retails for £8,800/$11,500 and is available to view at faberge.com. Enquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be passed on to a member of the Customer Relationships Team.