Alma Pihl 1912
One of my jewellery idols is the amazing Alma Pihl. She was one of the best known female workmasters at Fabergé. A Moscow born jewellery designer with Finnish roots. She was mostly self-taught and only in her twenties when she first started working for Fabergé.
Alma grew up with deep connections to Fabergé as her grandfather August Holmström was a workmaster there and her father Oscar Pihl was head of the Fabergé Moscow workshop. Later Alma’s uncle Albert Holmström succeeded his father as the workmaster and Alma started to work for him as a trainee. It didn’t take long for Alma’s uncle to notice her exceptional talent and soon she gained more responsibility at the workshop.
A few years into her career, in 1911, Alma Pihl was put in charge of a very important commission from one of Fabergé’s most valued customers. She was to design forty small and completely unique pieces of jewellery that were supposed to be made from high quality materials but not to be too expensive so they would not be mistaken as bribes.
Ice Pendant. The firm of Carl Fabergé. Artisan Albert Holmström. Alma Pihl design.
Alma Pihl ended up gazing through a frost covered window at the workshop as she was looking for inspiration and noticed the shimmering effect of the sunlight on the ice fractals in the window. From this view she got the idea to create her famous “frost flowers” that included six different brooch designs made from rock crystal, tiny diamonds, gold and platinized silver.
Ice Egg. The firm of Carl Fabergé. Platinum, silver, clear white enamel, pearls, rhinestone, diamonds. Made for Emmanuel Nobel. Alma Pihl design.
Later on, in 1913, Alma Pihl went on to design the famous Fabergé’s Imperial Winter Easter egg including her signature frosty features. The Winter egg has been titled as one of the most important of all the Fabergé Imperial eggs https://www.britannica.com/art/Faberge-egg, if not most important. It was also the most expensive, featuring some 3000 diamonds. It had beautiful ice crystals engraved on the shell and a floral bouquet inside to represent spring. In 2002, the Winter egg was sold for 9,6 million US dollars at an auction in New York, but it’s current value is estimated to be a lot more.
Winter Egg. The Firm Of Carl Fabergé. 1913. Artisan Albert Holmström. Alma Pihl design.
After the Russian revolution, Alma Pihl ended up moving to Finland with her husband and living a very low-key life as a teacher in Kuusankoski. She taught literature and drawing and was very liked among her students. Alma Pihl never revealed, however, that she used to be one of the most famous jewellery designers in the world.
My adoration for Alma Pihl began already when I was a goldsmith student and so I did a frost flower themed brooch as my final work to graduate as a goldsmith. Later on, working as a bench jeweller, I made a commissioned brooch with frost flowers for a client and also went on to commision a self-designed frost flower themed ring for myself as well. Today I want to honour Alma Pihl by participating in the most beautiful ring of the year competition with my Ice Queen ring that was inspired by the magical winter forest in Finland as well as the work of Alma Pihl.
Here are a few links if you want to read more about Alma Pihl: