Until the 1916 overthrow of the Tsar, Carl Faberge‘s jewelery workshop made 50 Easter eggs for the royal family, each taking a year or more to craft. But the third egg ever made was on the brink of being melted down for scrap recently; Tsar Alexander III‘s 1887 Easter gift to his wife, Tsarina Maria Feodorovna. The 3.2-inch egg is on an elaborate gold stand supported by lion paw feet with three sapphires suspend golden garlands around it, and a diamond acts an opening mechanism to reveal the Vacheron Constantin watch inside.
In 2013, An anonymous Mid-western man who had been left financially stretched after he apparently overestimated what the tiny golden egg would be worth once it was melted down. He’d been hoping to make $500 on it. In a fit of desperation last year, he typed three letters “egg” along with the name engraved on the clock it contained, “Vacheron Constantin” into Google and his search brought up a 2011 article describing a “frantic search” for the item, estimated to be worth $33 million.
The man contacted Fabergé expert Kieran McCarthy and flew to London to visit McCarthy’s workplace, Wartski jewelers in Mayfair, where the egg was just displayed from April 14 to 17 for only the second time ever. McCarthy said he had no warning about the visit.
“A gentleman had walked in wearing jeans, a plaid shirt and trainers. His mouth was just dry with fear. He handed me a portfolio of photographs, and there was the egg, the Holy Grail of art and antiques. He didn’t look upon a work of art at all. He saw that it was pretty and it was nice, but he was buying on intrinsic value. He bought and sold.“
The egg was thought to have been lost after the Soviets listed it for sale in 1922 as part of a policy of turning “treasures into tractors”. Eight, including the Third Imperial Egg, were thought to have been lost and two others are thought to have survived, but their locations still remain a mystery. The egg was purchased by a private collector who allowed the public to glimpse it for three days at Wartski before it disappeared from the public again. (Photos, Wartski; via CNN)