The following report of a remarkable chance discovery was reported in this country by the Antiques Trade Gazette in March of this year :
A previously lost Fabergé egg has been found by Mayfair jeweller Wartski in the American Midwest.
Until the rediscovery in near miraculous circumstances, eight of the fifty eggs made to unique designs by Carl Fabergé for the doomed Russian Royal family, were deemed missing with only three of those believed to have survived the Revolution.
This Fabergé egg, a diminutive 3.25in (8.2cm) high and made in yellow gold set with cabochon sapphires and rose diamonds, opens via a brilliant-cut diamond pushpiece to reveal a watch with diamond-set hands by the Swiss maker Vacheron Constantin. Made in the workshop of Fabergé’s chief-jeweller August Holmström in St Petersburg, 1886-1887, it was given by Alexander III to the Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1887, making this the third of the Imperial eggs.
It was last seen in public 112 years ago when it was photographed in the Von Dervis Mansion exhibition of the Imperial family’s Fabergé collection in St Petersburg in March 1902. It was later confiscated by the Bolsheviks and recorded in a Moscow inventory in 1922 at the time when many Imperial treasures were sold to the West.
Scholars feared it had been melted for its considerable gold content but in 2011 the discovery of a grainy black and white photograph of the egg in a 1964 catalogue of New York auctioneers, Parke-Bernet, offered the possibility at least that it was still awaiting rediscovery – and a spectacular reattribution. At the time of the 1964 sale it was described simply as a ‘gold watch in egg form case’ and had sold for $2450 (£875). In an article written for The Telegraph in August 2011, Kieran McCarthy, Fabergé expert at Wartski, had speculated it could today be worth around £20m.
Meanwhile it seems a part-time dealer in the Midwest of America had bought the egg at a bric-a-brac market paying $14,000 for what he predicted was $14,500 worth of bullion (scrap metal). As it happened he had overestimated its value (the egg has several scratches where its gold content has been sampled) and it was with a sense of despair earlier this year that he keyed the words ‘egg’ and ‘Vacheron Constantin’ into Google. It was then that The Telegraph article caught his eye prompting a succession of sleepless nights and a flight to London to visit Wartski who have handled twelve of the Imperial eggs in their long history. Shown a series of images of the egg, Mr McCarthy was almost certain a lost Imperial treasure had been found, but to confirm its authenticity he travelled to a small town in the Mid-West where he was shown into the kitchen of the owner’s home. The Third Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg was slightly smaller than a large cupcake positioned next to it.
Wartski have acquired the egg for a private collector, making the finder an art-historical lottery winner. (Although the price has not been revealed it is rumoured to be in the region of £15 million).
Two other of the original eight missing Imperial eggs are known to have survived the Russian Revolution. They are the 1889 Necessaire Egg (heavily chased gold, set with pearls and gemstones, without a stand, containing thirteen miniature toilet articles) and last recorded at Wartski in June 1952. The 1888 Cherub Egg with Chariot (a gold egg resting in a chariot drawn by a cherub) was last recorded with Armand Hammer in New York in 1934.