Let Me Introduce You To -- Alma Pihl

Top of the Mosaic Easter Egg
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2019

Alma Theresia Pihl (1888-1976) was a woman recognized for remarkable design talent within a family already bursting with artistic skill and ingenuity.  Born in 1888 in Moscow, her Finnish father was the head of Fabergé's jewelry workshop in Moscow; her uncle was Fabergé's Head Workmaster.

In 1908, Pihl began to work for her uncle, rendering life-size designs in watercolor to provide archival records of what the workshop was creating, noting gems and labor costs.  She also began to draft her own designs in her spare time.    Though artistically self-taught, Pihl showed such promise with her innovative designs that her uncle promoted her within the workshop after just a year, making her Fabergé's first female designer.

Snowflake brooch
Image courtesy Christie's

When Dr. Emmanuel Nobel, a prolific client of Fabergé, commissioned a gift that could be presented to each lady in attendance at a dinner party -- something lovely, but not so expensive such that it might be misconstrued as bribery -- Pihl was given the design job.  She turned to nature for inspiration and transformed snowflakes from a  harsh Russian winters into 40 lovely brooches.  Nobel was so pleased with the results that he commissioned additional jewelry and objet d' art from Fabergé (see below) and again, Pihl was awarded the design commissions.

A sketch for a related Fabergé rock crystal frost
pendant from Albert Holstrom's design book,
created by Alma Pihl, dated 2May 1913.
Courtesy of Wartski, London

Pendant created from the Alma Pihl design.
Courtesy Sotheby's

Nobel Ice Egg and surprise, 1913
Installation at the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, 2013
McFerrin Fabergé Collection

Pihl's innovative designs continued to inspire and she was selected to design the jewel gifts for the 300th anniversary celebration of Romanov dynasty,

Alma Pihl design, Romanov Tercentenary Brooch
Photo courtesy Sotheby's

as well as the Imperial egg that was commissioned by the czar as a gift for the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.   This egg is considered to be one of the most spectacular ever produced by the Fabergé workshop.

The Imperial Winter Egg, 2013 with original surprise
Photo courtesy Christie's
Additional details here
The following year,  Pihl designed the Mosaic Egg, a masterful open mesh object with gems set finely within the mesh.  It's purported that Pihl was inspired to create this design after watching her mother do needlework by the fireside.

Mosaic Easter Egg and original surprise
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 2019
The Russian Revolution forced the closing of the Fabergé workshop. Pihl and her husband eventually left Russia in 1921 to move to Finland.  Pihl spent the remainder of her professional career teaching calligraphy and drawing in the town of Kuusankoski, northeast of Helsinki.  She died on July 14, 1976.  Most of her students never knew of her skills and history as a designer.

Alma Pihl, 1912