A Road Trip Like No Other

Once de­rided as mark­ers of deca­dence, gem-en­crusted Fabergé eggs are mak­ing a come­back. By Hong Xinyi

Pinnacle (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Glen Wat­son takes part in the 2013 Cen­te­nary Alpine Trial in Aus­tria.

To­kens of love, em­blems of im­pe­rial splen­dour, show­cases for breath­tak­ing crafts­man­ship, poignant re­minders of a vi­o­lence-soaked his­tory, and now, con­tro­ver­sial sta­tus sym­bols for a new breed of wealthy tastemak­ers – the iconic Fabergé eggs bear dif­fer­ent mean­ings.

The first Fabergé egg was made in 1885 for the Ro­manov Tsar, Alexan­der III, and pre­sented to his wife, Em­press Maria Feodor­ovna, as an Easter present. Jew­eller Peter Carl Fabergé was tasked with cre­at­ing what is known as the Hen Egg. Its gold shell cov­ered with opaque white enamel, the egg opens to re­veal a matte yel­low gold yolk con­tain­ing a gold hen with ruby eyes, which opened to re­veal a di­a­mond replica of the im­pe­rial crown and a ruby pen­dant.

The com­mis­sion­ing of im­pe­rial easter eggs be­came a tra­di­tion that Alexan­der III’s son, Ni­cholas II, con­tin­ued. Over the next 32 years, un­til the Ro­manov dy­nasty was over­thrown in 1917, Fabergé made an es­ti­mated 50 such eggs for the royal fam­ily, as well as eggs for other aris­to­crats and cap­tains of in­dus­try. Says Mark Moehrke, Fabergé ex­pert and Di­rec­tor of Rus­sian Works of Art at Christie’s: “Fabergé eggs are the ul­ti­mate tro­phy for col­lec­tors be­cause they have im­pe­rial prove­nance and re­flect the ro­mance of the lost Rus­sian Em­pire. Rar­ity is one of the most ap­peal­ing qual­i­ties of the Fabergé eggs.”

One apoc­ryphal anec­dote claims that Fabergé eggs were among the valu­ables sewn into the clothes of Ni­cholas II’s young daugh­ters be­fore the fam­ily faced the Bol­she­vik fir­ing squad. Later, un­der Joseph Stalin’s regime, many Im­pe­rial Eggs were sold to col­lec­tors out­side Rus­sia. The most prom­i­nent of these buy­ers was the ty­coon Mal­colm Forbes, whose collection of Fabergé ob­jects in­cluded nine Im­pe­rial Eggs.

Some strik­ing Im­pe­rial Eggs in­clude the 1911 Fif­teenth An­niver­sary Egg, an enamel and di­a­mond cre­ation fea­tur­ing scenes from the pri­vate and pub­lic lives of Ni­cholas II and his fam­ily.The 1913 Win­ter Egg, auc­tioned in 2002 for US$9.6 mil­lion, is ad­mired for its thin rock crys­tal shell, with plat­inum and di­a­mond dec­o­ra­tions de­signed to look like frost. In 2007, a 1902 gold and enamel Fabergé egg owned by the Roth­schild bank­ing fam­ily made head­lines for fetch­ing US$16.5 mil­lion at an auc­tion.

“Since this mar­ket came into be­ing fol­low­ing the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion, col­lec­tors from all over the world have be­come in­ter­ested in them. Fabergé col­lec­tors have di­verse back­grounds, com­ing from Amer­ica, Europe and Rus­sia,” Moehrke notes. “Al­though there is al­ways the risk of ac­quir­ing fakes, Fabergé eggs have been very well doc­u­mented for the past century, so they are eas­ily trace­able. Col­lec­tors can al­ways seek ex­per t ad­vice from auc­tion house spe­cial­ists.”

In 2004, as par t of his per­sonal mis­sion to re­cover Rus­sian cul­tural ar tefacts that were lost dur­ing the 20th century, Rus­sian oli­garch Vic­tor Vek­sel­berg bought the Forbes collection for a sum es­ti­mated at more than US$100 mil­lion. An­other 10 of the Im­pe­rial Eggs are dis­played at Moscow’s Krem­lin Ar­moury Mu­seum.The rest are in pri­vate and state col­lec­tions and in mu­se­ums all over the world. Eight Im­pe­rial Eggs re­main miss­ing.

The Fabergé brand it­self has staged a come­back. Pur­chased by busi­ness­man Brian Gil­bert­son in 2007, with Peter Carl Fabergé’s great-grand­daugh­ters Ta­tiana and Sarah act­ing as ad­vi­sors, the com­pany launched two col­lec­tions of egg pen­dants in 2011 – the first new cre­ations from the House of Fabergé since the dark days of 1917.

Fabergé eggs are the ul­ti­mate tro­phy for col­lec­tors be­cause they have im­pe­rial prove­nance and re­flect the ro­mance of the lost Rus­sian Em­pire.

01

01 Model il­lu­mi­nated by light from a Rus­sian Im­pe­rial Easter egg made by Fabergé. She wears a lacy col­lar of square-cut emer­alds and round di­a­monds, and match­ing di­a­mond ring, all from Harry Win­ston circa De­cem­ber 1958.

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