An unidentified American scrap-metal dealer from the Midwest spotted a gold egg at a shop selling for $13,000. The golden egg opened and had a clock inside with a variety of jewels. Sensing a chance to turn around a quick profit for the jewels and the gold, the unnamed scrap-metal dealer made the owner an offer. The owner refused anything less than $13,000. The American agreed on the price and purchased the Fabergé egg, and the pedestal on which it rested.
Returning home, the new owner discovered the time piece inside was designed by Vacheron Constantin, a prominent watch maker. One night in 2012, the new owner went online to Google and entered egg and Vacheron Constantin. The search returned a story about the particular egg and a quote from Kieran McCarthy, an antiques expert and Fabergé specialist. McCarthy worked for Wartski, an antiques firm that specialized in Russian artwork such as those created in the Fabergé workshops in St. Petersburg. Taking several pictures of his find, the scrap-metal dealer traveled to Great Britain and showed the photos to McCarthy.
McCarthy immediately recognized what he saw as being important and flew the United States to verify the authenticity of the egg. He likened the find to Indiana Jones discovering the Lost Ark. The Fabergé Egg had a value of $33 million. The scrap-metal dealer arranged the immediate sale of the piece through McCarthy’s firm to a private buyer.
The egg was last seen by the public in March 1902 at a St. Petersburg exhibition. It was one of 56 designed in the workshop of Carl Fabergé between 1885 and 1916. This particular egg was given by the Czar in 1887 to his wife as an Easter gift. It is one of eight missing Fabergé eggs from the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The jeweled, ridged, yellow-gold Fabergé egg and its original tripod pedestal stand 3.22 inches. The pedestal has lion paw feet encircled by gold garlands. Cabochon blue sapphires topped with rose diamonds are found on the base. Within the egg there is a lady’s watch created by Vacheron Constantin. The white enamel is decorated with sapphires and rose-cut diamonds set upon gold hands. The watch has a hinged mount within the egg, permitting it to stand upright. The piece was created in the St. Petersburg Fabergé workshop by Chief-Jeweler August Holmström. The May 1887 payment for the Fabergé egg with its clock totaled 2,160 rubles.
Upon taking power, the Bolsheviks transferred the egg from the Kremlin Armory in Moscow to the St. Petersburg Anichkov Palace in September 1917. It was last inventoried in Russia in March 1922 and later sold to a buyer in the West. On March 7, 1964 Parke-Bernet Gallery auctioned the egg at a New York auction for $2,450. The Fabergé Egg purchased recently for $13,000 and sold for $33 million will be on display for the first time in 122 years at Wartski’s between April 12th and 17th before going to its new owner.
By Brian T. Yates