The value of some of the remaining 43 Faberge eggs of the original 50 have inspired acts of theft, extreme auction bids and have even transformed the life of an unassuming scrap dealer. These are just a few of their stories.
The egg has been a symbol of new life since the times of the Phoenicians and even the act of decorating them predates Christian traditions, with engraved Ostrich eggs that are over 60,000 years old being uncovered in Africa. The gifting of an Easter egg, however, has been a symbolic Christian tradition through which the Bible resurrection story is remembered and celebrating new life which has been popular in Europe since the middle ages. Originally, bird’s eggs and eggs carved from wood or precious stones were the traditional form that the gift of an Easter egg would take, however, Tsar Alexander III began his own tradition in 1885 of gifting the world’s most intricate and expensive Easter eggs to his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The Faberge Eggs value has only increased with time as have the eclectic stories that surround them. While these eggs were constructed for the Russian Royal family for thousands, some of Faberge’s creations have since sold on for millions.
A Scrap Dealer’s Dream
Sitting unappreciated in a market within the Midwest of the US, the most expensive Faberge egg lay in waiting to be acquired by an unsuspecting US scrap metal dealer. Upon unknowingly purchasing a gift worthy of Russian Royalty for the sum of £8000, the scrap metal dealer found himself with a lost treasure which he had plans to sell for scrap (1). A few Google searches later that all changed. Once he gained confirmation that the egg he had acquired was the legitimate Third Imperial Faberge egg and was once the property of a Russian Tsar and his wife from the Faberge expert Kieran McCarthy, it was sold for £20 million to a private collector (1). Holding true to the symbolic Easter tradition of gifting an Easter egg, the scrap owner did indeed find a new life through the riches he acquired from its sale.
Originally unknown to scholars was the Rothschild egg. In 1917 when the Bolsheviks came to power, they seized all the Russian Jewelry companies’ archives in order to locate the wealthier members of the society (2). Lost in this process was the record of the Faberge Rothschild egg. Created by Faberge in 1902, the golden Rothschild Egg gained the sum of £8 million at a Christie’s International auction in 2007 (2). It’s intricate design incorporates a diamond set cockerel which announces the change of the hour as it emerges from the egg’s design, flaps it’s wings and crows for 15 seconds (3). The buyer of the Faberge egg was the Russian National Museum director Alexander Ivanov who purchased the egg using the museum’s own money and has since donated it to the Russian government (3). The Rothschild egg currently resides in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
An Egg Thief
Like Kinder Eggs for Royalty, many of the Faberge Easter Eggs hold a surprise of their own, varying from clocks to cockerels. The value of these surprises is hidden in their design and origin, hidden to the point that one may not be aware of their true value. Richard Tobin confessed he was unaware of the value of the several Faberge accessories he stole from the Christies auction house (4). He was caught shortly after the act and was sentenced on 8th April 2015, just days after Easter, however, while the thief may be caught, the Faberge have yet to be found, reports Artnet News (4).
The Value of a Faberge Egg
Fashioned from gold, enameled with a white outer shell and layered inside with a matte yellow gold finish, the first Faberge egg contained the surprise of a golden ruby eyed hen (5). The hen itself once held two other surprises, one of which being a gold and diamond replica of the Imperial crown, the other a small ruby Faberge pendant that was set within the replica crown (5). These latter surprises, however, are now missing (5). Known as the Hen egg, it was the first of the Faberge eggs commissioned and it’s craftsmanship, precious metals, jewels and history combine to make up it’s value. Tsar Alexander III’s wife was said to appreciate the egg and it’s surprises to the extent that the Tsar saw fit to have a new egg constructed for her each year after where in which Karl Faberge was given the freedom to design the eggs as he saw fit after the second commissioned egg being another success (5). The Third Imperial Faberge egg crafted sold in 2014 for approximately £20m, making it the most expensive Faberge egg in the world (1). It is now the Faberge legacy and the cultural capital held within each egg which carries the true value of the Faberge Egg collection.
A list of the other Faberge eggs can be found here.