Ok, I have to admit this is one of my favorite topics. My analytical mind (which served me well in engineering) loves the topic of Fabergé eggs. Yes they are beautiful. Yes they are made from precious metals and gems. But, what I love is the miniature mechanical works in them. Some are clocks but some, like the Trans-Siberian Railway egg of 1900, are miniature engineering marvels. The Trans-Siberian Railway egg has a miniature train that is wound up with a key and actually runs. Many of these eggs are even more marvelous when you realize they were made between 1885 and 1917. There were those who saw the Imperial Fabergé Eggs and placed orders for Faberǵe Eggs. A total of 50 Imperial Fabergé Eggs were delivered to the Romanovs, another 15 were made for private customers of Carl Fabergé. The last of the Imperial Fabergé Eggs were never given to the Imperial family because of the Russian Revolution. Of the 65 imperial and non-imperial Fabergé eggs which were made, 57 are known to exist today. Seven of the missing eggs are Imperial Fabergé Eggs made for either Czar Alexander III or Czar Nicholas II.
In 1885, Czar Alexander II presented the first Imperial Fabergé Egg (known as the Hen Egg) to his wife Empress Maria Fedorovna. 1885 was their twentieth wedding anniversary, and some people believe the Czar’s Easter present to his wife may have been inspired by her childhood. Her aunt, Princess Vilhelmine Marie of Denmark, was her favorite aunt and owned an egg that captivated the future Empress of Russia.
The Czar and Czarina enjoyed this first Fabergé egg so much, that the Czar presented a new Imperial Fabergé Egg to her each Easter. The Czar gave Carl Fabergé total control over the design of the Imperial eggs. Even the Czar did not know the design until the egg was presented to him by Carl Faberǵe. The Czar’s only stipulation was that each egg had to have a hidden treasure inside.
The 1894 Easter egg, the Renaissance Egg, was the last Imperial Fabergé Egg Czar Alexander II gave to his wife. In November 1894, Czar Alexander III died of kidney problems. Czar Nicholas II continued his father’s tradition. Each Easter Czar Nicholas gave an Imperial Fabergé Egg to his mother and one to his wife, Czarina Alexandra.
The missing Imperial Fabergé Eggs are:
1886 Hen with Sapphire Pendant: exact design not known, no known photographs.
1888 Cherub with Chariot: there is one photograph of this egg. However, it is obscured by another egg and can only be seen in a blurry reflection.
1889 Nécessaire: exact design not known, no known photographs. This egg is known to have survived the Russian Revolution. It was sold by Wartski in London in 1952 to someone listed as “a stranger.” The egg has not been seen since, and its whereabouts are unknown. Wartski was an antique dealer in London who specialized in Russian works of art.
1897 Mauve: exact design not known, no known photographs.
1902 Empire Nephrite: exact design not known, no known photographs.
1903 Royal Danish: only one photograph is known to exist of this egg.
1909 Alexander III Commemorative: only one photograph is known to exist of this egg.
The Imperial egg of 1887 was found by a junk dealer in 2012. He sold the egg through Wartski to “a private collector” in 2014. This egg disappeared in 1922, and then was sold at an auction in New York in 1964 for $2,450 to someone listed as “Clark.” The egg again disappeared, but about 2004 it was sold at a “bric-a-brac” market. In 2012, the new owner did not know what he had at first. He originally bought the egg to melt it down for its scrap value (about $15,000), but later sold the egg for an estimated $20,000,000.
Depending on the source there are 50, 52, or 54 Imperial Eggs. However, only 50 were delivered to the Royal family.
Two eggs were thought to have been designed but never completed, the Karelian Birch egg and the Constellation Egg. Both eggs are currently on display in private museums.
The Karelian Birch egg is made of birch panels set in a gold frame. It is the only egg to use an organic substance as a primary construction element. This was because of the austerity measures taken during World War I. It was to be delivered for Easter 1917, but the Czar abdicated on March 15, 1917. The former Czar paid 12,500 rubles for the egg and had it sent to his brother to be presented to their mother. But, Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich fled before the egg arrived. The egg was looted during the October Revolution. The egg turned up in a museum in Moscow. In January 1927, the museum closed and the egg disappeared again. In 2001, the egg turned up in England in the private collection of Russian emigrants. The egg is now owned by Alexander Ivanov and on display in one of his museums.
There are two eggs claiming to be the Constellation egg. One at a museum in Moscow and one owned by Alexander Ivanov on display in his Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden. The experts appear to believe Ivanov’s egg is the original egg, though experts in Russia consider Ivanov’s egg to be an obvious fake. The Russian museum says the Constellation egg was given to the museum by Carl Fabergé in 1928. But, he fled Russia in 1927. The constellation egg was started, but never completed.
The largest collection of Fabergé eggs outside of Russia, the Forbes Collection was due to go on the auction block in April 2004. Before they could be auctioned a Russian energy tycoon, Victor Vekselberg, bought all nine eggs for an undisclosed sum; though Vekselberg later said in an interview that he paid more than one hundred million dollars for the nine eggs.
Mr. Vekselberg was quoted as saying the collection “ … represents perhaps the most significant example of our cultural heritage outside of Russia. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give back to my country one of its most revered treasures.”
There are many sites that offer reproductions of the Imperial Eggs. There are also sites offering Fabergé eggs for sell. But, before you buy a Fabergé egg from a retailer you need to make sure the egg was made by an authorized company. Some companies get around this by offering Fabergé styled eggs for sell.
So, what about the other seven eggs that are still missing?
One, the Cherub with Chariot egg, was sold in the United States by Armand Hammer for the Soviet government in the 1930s. Its current whereabouts unknown, it is believed by the experts that the current owner does not know they have one of the missing Imperial Fabergé Eggs. Two eggs are believed to be in the United Kingdom. Once again the experts believe the owners are not aware that they have a missing Imperial Fabergé Egg. The last four eggs are believed to be in Russia. The estimated value of the missing eggs range anywhere from three million to thirty million dollars each (US dollars).
Ok, so you think you found one of the missing Fabergé eggs. Now what? First there are many fakes. Sometimes even the experts cannot agree. Fortunately the fakes you and I are likely to run into are much easier to detect.
First, most forgers tend to stick to just three enamel colors. But the Fabergé craftsmen were meticulous in their art and worked from a pallet of more than 140 different enamel colors.
Second, Fabergé items are one-of-a-kind. They share similar characteristics with other Fabergé items, but each is designed and made as a one-of-a-kind item. You will find no blemishes anywhere on a genuine Fabergé egg. When you hold a Fabergé egg in your hand there is a certain quality and elegance that is hard to describe, but unforgettable and easy to recognize after you have held the genuine article.
Third, Fabergé eggs were delicate objects. The hallmarks were legal obligations, not anti-forgery tools. On the real thing the hallmark was applied before the object was finished. A Fabergé was often a delicate item and applying a hallmark to a finished object could damage the delicate metal work or the enameled paint. Often on a genuine Fabergé the hallmark can be hard to read, it can be either partially obscured or even faint and hard to read. Forgers often apply hallmarks that are just too good.
Fabergé, Cartier, Tiffany and other similar companies have always made high end items. Even new, their products are expensive. When you own an original Fabergé it is not very likely you will forget it. If you are thinking of buying an object that may be a Fabergé, have it looked at by an expert. If you have an object you think might be a Fabergé, have it looked at by an expert. Actually, I would use several experts. In most cases the opinions will be the same among the experts.
Most of the Fabergé items today have all been through one or more of the following auction houses Wartski, Sotheby’s, Christie’s or one of the other reputable international auction houses. These are items with a paper trail in most cases.
I always encourage my daughter to explore and be proud of her Russian heritage, and Fabergé is the benchmark for Russian elegance and quality. When she is older I plan on giving her a reproduction Fabergé egg. Below this article are some of the results from my own search for my daughter. I have included it just incase any of you are also interrested.
Thank you and have a great day,
The trademark is still active and if you would like to buy a new Fabergé item you can go to the company’s web site www.faberge.com to find the nearest store.
I have found two sites that offer nice reproductions Best Pyansnky is a treasure trove of nice Russian and Ukrainian items. Though I have never purchased any of their items myself and cannot vouch for the quality, I do intend to make some purchases through them for my daughter (including a reproduction Imperial egg for my daughter). There prices look very good. Their web site states they are a family business that imports items produced in small quantities by skilled artisans in Russia, Poland, India, United States and Canada. They are in Chicago and have a customer service number listed (but you have to call during business hours Monday through Saturday).
The other site is Amazon, of course hahaha. I have not looked at the secondary markets on Amazon, but I did do a search on the Amazon home page and came up with more than 3400 items in the search results. If you would like to know more, but really don’t want to spend an afternoon searching the web the three books and the one DVD I’ve listed below might be what you are looking for.
Just click on any of the underlined words to go to that site.