The world’s most expensive Easter Eggs are not made of chocolate, but are in fact some of the most valuable, beautiful and culturally significant creations of the last two centuries.
1. What are Fabergé Eggs?
Although the brand name Fabergé has changed hands over the years, the historical Fabergé eggs were created by Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé between 1885 and 1917. It began when Tsar Alexander III commissioned him to create an extravagant bejewelled Easter Egg for his wife Maria Feodorovna.
In subsequent years the design and construction grew more elaborate, more valuable and included a surprise, typically an item of jewellery within the egg such a diamond replica of the royal crown. Very much the Russian royalty version of a Kinder Egg, only without the chocolate.
The tradition came to an end with the Russian Revolution of 1917, Fabergé’s company was nationalised and he fled to Western Europe, eventually settling in Switzerland, before dying in 1920.
2. Why are they so valuable?
As should be obvious, the eggs contain the finest jewels and precious metals, but that is only part of their tremendous value. Each egg took a year to make, with teams of highly-skilled craftsmen bringing to life complex designs and constructions that far exceeded those of typical jewellery or objets d’art.
The eggs were inspired by and would frequently reference Russian history and important milestones in Russian royal life. As such as they exist as great works in the jewellery and art worlds, but also have huge cultural significance, especially given the tumultuous period they immediately preceded.
Only 65 eggs were produced, 50 ‘imperial eggs’ for the Royal family, several for Russian nobleman Alexander Kelch and the rest for the collections of other wealthy individuals. This rarity, as well as the mystery that surrounds the search for missing eggs, means the most valuable are now valued up to £20million.
3. The Missing Fabergé Eggs
Seven of the original Fabergé eggs are currently lost. Either they have been destroyed, are stored in an unknown location or are currently owned by someone not aware of the item’s prestige. The whereabouts of the Alexander III Commemorative, Royal Danish, Empire Nephrite, Mauve, Nécessaire, Cherub with Chariot and Hen with Sapphire Pendant eggs are currently not known. Some of these eggs are amongst the first ever made for the Tsar and could be worth in the tens of millions.
In March 2014 a scrap metal dealer purchased an item at a market for $8000 with the intention of selling the gold for market value. It later transpired the item was a previously missing Fabergé egg worth £20million, the Third Imperial egg created in 1887, has since been sold to a private collector.
4. Who owns the Fabergé eggs?
Ten of the fifty imperial eggs are held in the Kremlin Armoury in Moscow, a museum which opened in 1808 and houses other collectibles such as the Russian Diamond Fund and artwork from across Europe dating back to the 5th Century. Queen Elizabeth II owns four eggs which are part of The Royal Collection, a trust which contains thousands of priceless works of art and is passed from monarch to monarch.
Other than the lost eggs, the rest are split between private collectors, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other museums worldwide. The biggest single collector of Fabergé eggs, however, is Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian businessman and third wealthiest person in Russia. He owns fourteen of the original eggs and has plans to open a dedicated museum to display them.
5. Modern Fabergé Eggs
Fabergé is still a brand name that is alive today, producing high quality jewellery and timepieces. As well as offering egg-themed products on their website they also have stores in New York, Mayfair, Hong Kong, Geneva and in the Fine Jewellery Hall at Harrods.
They also run an annual event called “The Big Fabergé Egg Hunt” in New York, which raises money for children’s charities by auctioning off eggs designed by some of the world’s most famous designers and artists. You can see some examples in the photo above, and read more about them on the Paddle8 website. An egg designed by American artists Jeff Koons sold for $500,000 at auction in 2014.
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