Fabergé Eggs represent both the opulence and extravagance of the Romanov Dynasty.
Over the course of a little more than three decades, famed goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé crafted some 50 imperial Fabergé Eggs; each an enchanting piece of art so posh that it cost as much as 40 times what the average Russian earned in a year.
Today, 43 of the famed eggs are spread around the world in museums and private collections.
Seven, though, remain uncounted for. The lucky individual who comes across one of the missing gems will find themselves with a prize worth tens of millions of dollars.
If that seems like a pipe dream, consider that last year an American scrap-metal dealer bought what he thought was a tacky gold ornament at a “bric-a-brac” stall.
The dealer, who requested anonymity, planned to melt the piece down but Googled its markings first. He discovered it was the Third Imperial Easter Egg, made in 1887 and worth an astonishing $30 million. The egg was later sold to an anonymous buyer.
The first Fabergé Egg was created in 1885. That year, Russian Tsar Alexander III presented his wife with a jeweled egg to mark both Easter and the 20th anniversary of their engagement.
“Empress Maria Fedorovna was enchanted by the gift – a white enamel shell encasing a golden yolk which contained a shimmering hen, which in turn concealed a miniature diamond crown and ruby pendant,” according to The Mirror.
Alexander rewarded the man who made it by appointing him goldsmith to the Imperial Crown.
While the missing eggs could have been destroyed in the chaos of the Russian Revolution, it’s quite possible they still survive.
“When the Kremlin archives were opened up in the 1990s people were able to research the eggs properly,” according to Toby Faber, author of Fabergé ’s Eggs: The Extraordinary Story of the Masterpieces that Outlived an Empire.
“These seven were all owned by Maria Fedorovna, who survived the revolution and came to England before returning to her native Denmark,” he added.
The seven missing eggs are:
- Hen With Sapphire Pendant (1886): Golden hen studded with rose diamonds plucking sapphire egg from nest. Last seen in the Kremlin’s Armory Palace in 1922;
- Cherub With Chariot (1888): Angel pulling chariot containing an egg. Studded with sapphire and diamonds. Angel-shaped clock “surprise.” Probably bought by Armand Hammer. Possibly sold again in 1941;
- Nécessaire (1889): Gold egg with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds. Inside were 13 diamond beauty accessories. It got to England and was in first Fabergé exhibition in 1949. Bought for about $1,850 in 1952;
- Mauve (1897): Mauve enamel with rose-cut diamonds and pearls and a “surprise” of heart-shaped frames with portraits of Nicholas, Alexandra and their first child, Olga. Frames are in a collection;
- Empire Nephrite (1902): Made of mineral nephrite. Diamond-studded golden base hides a tiny portrait of Alexander III. Possibly exhibited in London in 1935. One author claimed in 2004 that the egg had been found. Most experts disagree;
- Royal Danish (1903): Enamel and gold, with precious stones, heraldic lions and royal arms with jubilee portraits of king and queen of Denmark, Maria’s parents; and
- Alexander III Commemorative (1909): Platinum, gold and white enamel with lozenge-shaped diamond clusters containing a gold bust of Alexander. Known only from a single black-and-white photo and not seen since before the Russian Revolution.
While relics from a bygone era, the missing eggs have a way of bringing out equal parts treasure hunter, historian and art aficionado in those who know their story. Let’s hope at least some of them turn up in the years ahead.
(Top: Fabergé Eggs from a collection in St. Petersburg, Russia.)