From Russia with love – the appeal of a Faberge Egg
As Easter approaches and thoughts turn to eggs of the chocolate variety there is one kind of egg almost any antique enthusiast would love to see delivered by the Easter Bunny – one made by Faberge.
For more than 130 years these objet d’art have captured the imagination of millions of people around the world due to their beauty, workmanship and history.
The first of 69 original Faberge Eggs, of which just 57 are known to have survived, was made in 1885. In antique terms they are not that old but it is not their age that makes them special, it is the drama and romance of the House of Romanov – the Russian dynasty that, after 300 years of rule, was brought to a violent end in the revolution of 1917.
The Tsars, in their haste to flee St Petersburg, left behind 50 Imperial Eggs made specially for them. Some are still missing and only 43 appear to have been found. The romantic notion that some are still out there is almost too good to be true.
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The Imperial Faberge Eggs were painstakingly hand made by Peter Carl Faberge and his team over 31 years. First Commissioned by Emperor Alexander III as an Easter present for his wife each Egg was known to have an ornate surprise inside, ranging from a gold clock to a miniature crown – an impressive feat of craftsmanship considering the Eggs were only 3 to 5 inches in size.
Alexander’s wife, Empress Maria received a new egg every year. Often the design was a complete surprise to them both, as Faberge was given free reign over the designs, each one becoming more opulent, and breathtaking over time.
After Alexander III passed away, his son Nicholas II carried on the tradition. Nicholas, a great nephew of Queen Victoria who bestowed on him the title of Colonel-in-chief of the Royal Scots Greys, had an Egg made for his wife and mother every year.
Each of the eggs were adorned with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and gold. Beautiful examples such as the Peter, the Great Egg, created in 1903, for the Czarina Alexandra Fyodorovna or the Imperial Napoleonic Egg, made in 1912 as a gift for the Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna are perfect symbols of opulence and ostentatious wealth guaranteed to never fall out of fashion.
Due to the sheer rarity, undeniable visual beauty, and astounding quality Faberge Eggs will forever be in demand and prices can only keep rising. The nature of the Fine Art market dictates rare and valuable works don’t often come up for sale very often, and when they do it’s for astronomical prices. The most expensive example sold at Christies in 2007 for $18.5 million.
However, more modern Faberge Eggs are also highly collectable although they won’t command the same prices at auction. A series of 19 eggs were created in 2005 as a tribute to Scottish Celtic Legend Jimmy “Jinky” Johnstone. He won 19 major football medals in his career hence 19 eggs. Johnstone passed away a year later and in 2011, one of the rare eggs sold at McTears in Glasgow for £15,000.
In 2007, Faberge also created a series of 68 eggs to commemorate George Best’s role with Manchester United in 1968 that led to their European Cup success.
Faberge was celebrated for quality, regardless of the object. Harking back to the days of high-brow Scottish society, a Faberge enamel clock was gifted to Laura Fordyce Buchan and Francis Stewart Hay of Duns Castle, Berwickshire, in 1903. The clock had been designed by Faberge master Michael Perchin at the turn of the 19th century. The happy couple were given the beautiful timepiece by Lady Miller, daughter of the 4th Baron of Scardsale. The clock surpassed its estimate and sold for £156,000 in Bonham’s Russian sale in 2011.
But finding a real and original Faberge is the stuff of dreams for antique collectors. One lucky US scrap metal dealer bought a gold Faberge egg for $14,000 in 2015. He had been hoping to make a $500 profit by melting down the gold but was told the precious metal was worth less than he paid for it. Luckily curiosity about his new purchase made him look more closely only to discover he had found the Third Imperial Egg which was made in 1887 and was worth approximately $33million (£20million).
In reality most of us will probably never see a Faberge egg let alone own one so I guess this Easter chocolate will just have to do!