The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg at Wartski in Mayfair
We are embarking on such an exciting journey today, as we are getting an exclusive preview of the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg at Court Jewellers Wartski in Mayfair. Let’s start out by travelling back in time, to St Petersburg in March 1902 and the Von Dervis Mansion exhibition of the Russian Imperial Family’s Fabergé collection. This is the last time that the Third Imperial Egg will be seen in public for 112 years:
To the far left you can see the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg when last exhibited in St Petersburg, March 1902
Easter is the most important of all Russian Orthodox festivals and exchanging Easter eggs is a long-established tradition. In 1887 Alexander III Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russians, decided to give this Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg to his wife Empress Maria Feodorovna as a token of love. We can only imagine how excited she must have been to receive such an exquisite and beautifully crafted piece, also containing a Vacheron Constantin watch:
The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg at Wartski’s in Mayfair
Carl Fabergé was the goldsmith of the Tsars and he created fifty of these elaborate Easter eggs for Alexander III and Nicholas II, from 1885 to 1916. Later, when the Imperial Fabergé eggs had become icons, its creator produced a number of lesser eggs in homage to those made for the Tsars – known as non-Imperial eggs.
The walls at Wartski are beautifully draped with old photos of the protagonists in this fascinating tale. Above: Empress Maria Feodorovna
As you can probably imagine, there was quite some turmoil during the Russian revolution and the Bolsheviks managed to confiscate the Egg from the Empress. The last record that the world had of the Egg was in Moscow in 1922, when the Soviets decided to sell it as part of their policy of turning ‘Treasures into Tractors’. No one knew where it had gone to after this and it is was feared that it had been melted for its gold – and lost forever.
Parke-Bernet Catalogue featuring the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg
However, in 2011 Fabergé researchers discovered that the Third Imperial Egg survived the revolution, when it was discovered in an old Parke-Bernet catalogue:
Parke Bernet Catalogue featuring the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg
It had gone unrecognised at an auction on Madison Avenue, New York on 7th March 1964, and sold as a ‘Gold watch in egg form case’ for $2,450 (£875 at the time). Across the world this discovery started a race to discover the whereabouts of the egg, which was now worth tens of millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, in the Mid-West of America, the Egg was bought at a bric-a-brac market by a gentleman living a modest life and trying to make extra money by buying gold and selling it for its scrap metal value. When he spotted the egg, he thought he could make an easy $500, although they had to pay $14,000 for its scrap metal value. But what had worked on many occasions, did not work this time. He had overestimated its worth and couldn’t sell it. No one spotted its potential and luckily no one offered more than the owner had paid for it, hence it was saved from the melting pot. The egg has several scratches on it where the metal was tested for its gold content.
The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg at Wartski in Mayfair
What happened then is best described by Kieran McCarthy, Director of Wartski - the London based Royal Warrant holding experts on the work of Carl Fabergé:
The egg became a financial burden to its unknowing owner. One evening in despair the owner tapped ‘Egg’ and ‘Vacheron Constantin’ into Google and a Telegraph article regarding the egg’s survival appeared quoting Kieran McCarthy. Recognising his egg in the article the owner was unable to sleep for days. He got on a plane to London to find Kieran and to show him images of the egg. Kieran was left speechless by the images and was almost certain the lost egg had been found, but to confirm its identity and ensure it was not a very clever fake, he travelled to the US. When he arrived in a small town in the Mid-West, he was shown into the kitchen of the owner’s home and presented with the egg, which was slightly smaller than the large cupcake positioned next to it. After an examination he confirmed that it was indeed the lost Imperial treasure. It had travelled from the hands of an Empress in the grandeur of Imperial St. Petersburg to a scrap metal dealer in modern day America. Wartski acquired the egg for a private collector, making the finder an art historical lottery winner, receiving multiple millions of dollars per centimetre of egg.
Kieran McCarthy, director of Wartski, demonstrating the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg Tripod
During the viewing yesterday Kieran McCarthy told us all about the extraordinary details of the jewelled and and ridged yellow gold Egg. Although it has the most beautiful reddish tint to it, it has been determined that it is made out of 14 karat yellow gold. We also had a close look at the original tripod with its intricate lion paw feet, coloured gold garlands, cabochon blue sapphires and rose diamond set bows:
I just adore these little lion paws on the tripod of the Third Easter Egg!
The lady’s watch inside the Egg by Vacheron Constantin has the most beautiful white enamel dial and the gold hands are diamond set. And may I just proudly add that it was made by August Holmström, Fabergé’s Finnish and Russian Chief-Jeweller!
The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg exhibition – 14-17 April at Wartski on 14 Grafton Street, Mayfair
So now my dear ladies and gentlemen, you have the opportunity to see this extraordinary piece of history, since the new owner has so kindly agreed to let the public view it for four days next week. The exhibition venue has been draped in the most fascinating old photos of all the protagonists in this tale, so visiting is just such a treat!
The exhibition so perfectly coincides with Easter and you can see it at Wartski, 14 Grafton Street, London W1S 4DE on 14th-17th April from 9:30am to 5pm. Entrance is free but queues are expected.
See the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg from the 14th to 17th April 2014 at Wartski, 14 Grafton Street, London W1S 4DE
… and the exhibition takes place right next to Fabergé, so why not pop by there to see some more of these extraordinary designs:
The Fabergé Shop on Grafton Street, right next doors to the exhibition of the Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg