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Where is the largest collection of Faberge eggs?

In February 2004, the hopes of hundreds of collectors from all over the world who were planning to take part in the historic Sotheby’s auction were dashed: a collection of works by Carl Fabergé, owned by Malcolm Forbes, founder of Forbes magazine. However, even before the auction, it was completely purchased by a Russian entrepreneur and collector Viktor Vekselberg. More than $100 million – this is the amount it cost to purchase the collection, which included about 200 items (jewelry, snuff boxes, ink utensils). Among them are nine legendary imperial Easter eggs, exhibited today in St. Petersburg in Faberge Museum, founded by Vekselberg. A huge amount, but a very profitable wholesale purchase. When it comes to works by Russian jewelers, it is the works of Carl Faberge that lead the auctions, and most often the records are set by buyers fighting for Easter eggs. See also

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Rothschild egg

  • In first place today is the Rothschild egg, sold in 2007 for $18,5 million by Christie’s auction house. This masterpiece of jewelry and watchmaking was made in 1902 by order of the family Ephrussi and in 1905 given as a wedding gift to the baron Eduard Rothschild. The Rothschild clock egg is practically a copy of the “Cockerel” clock egg from the series of imperial (most status) Faberge Easter eggs. For more than 100 years – until the auction – the egg remained in the property of this family (Faberge works rarely had such a calm fate). A collector has become the new owner of the Rothschild egg Alexander Ivanov, who kept it in his Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden. Since 2014, this Easter egg has been in the State Hermitage.
“Winter” Easter egg

  • In second place with an auction result of $9,5 million is the imperial “Winter” Easter egg from Faberge. I bought a rock crystal egg with the obligatory “surprise” – a platinum basket with snowdrops hidden inside – for my mother, Maria Feodorovna, the emperor Nicholas II. This is the most expensive Faberge egg ordered by the imperial house: in 1913, 24 rubles were paid for it. In 600, the “Winter” egg was sold by the All-Union Association “Antiques” and since then has changed owners several times, until the Emir of Qatar bought it at Christie’s auction in 1927 Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
Easter egg “Pine cone”

  • $3,14 million – this amount was paid at Christie’s auction in 1989 Joan Shag, the widow of a former McDonald’s executive, for the “Pine Cone” Easter egg. It was created in 1900 by order of a Russian industrialist Alexandra Kelha for his wife Barbarians. Blue guilloché enamel and platinum and diamond swags cover the surface of the egg, and hidden inside is a mechanical, bejeweled elephant on which sits a mahout.
Easter egg “Apple blossom”

  • In fourth place is an exquisite “Apple Blossom” jade Easter egg, braided with golden apple tree branches and decorated with diamonds and enamel. Made to order Alexandra Kelha in 1901. It was sold in Geneva in November 1996 at Christie’s for $1,121 million. Its new owner was Adulf Peter Goop, collector from Liechtenstein. In total, the Faberge firm produced seven Easter eggs for the Kelch family, which are not inferior in level of execution to the imperial ones. Today the Apple Blossom Easter egg is on permanent display in “Treasury of Liechtenstein” – a division of the National Museum of Liechtenstein.
Faberge tiara

  • In fifth place with a result of $1,03 million is the Faberge workshop again, this time not with an Easter egg. In Geneva, at Christie’s in May 2019, an exquisite tiara with nine aquamarines and old cushion-cut and rose-cut diamonds was sold. In 1904, this masterpiece, created by Russian jewelers, became a wedding gift Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, to his bride, Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland.
Faberge’s Clockwork Rhinoceros

  • Not only Easter eggs, but also the “zoo” of the Faberge company has its devoted fans who are ready to part with serious sums for them. A miniature silver wind-up rhinoceros, capable of moving its head and tail, was sold in November 2017 at Christie’s for $938,6 thousand. According to the auction house, the precious animal sculpture was created in 1909 and could have belonged to the Queen of England Alexandra, and then to her sister, the Russian Empress Maria Fedorovna.
Imperial snuffbox of Friedrich Köchli

  • Precious snuff boxes occupied a special place in the hierarchy of official gifts at the Russian imperial court, and a snuff box decorated with a portrait of the monarch was of exceptional importance. The circle of jewelers who carried out such orders was narrow, and the quality of their work was the highest. Among these selected jewelers was Friedrich Köchli, a name today less famous than Fabergé, but no less respected. For a snuff box made in his workshop in 1890, £2010 thousand was paid at Christie’s auction in November 505,3. And this is not surprising: a superbly executed snuff box, decorated with gold, guilloché enamel and precious stones (and this is the most important thing!) carries on the lid a miniature portrait of Tsarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich, that is, with a high degree of probability it could have been a gift on behalf of the future Emperor Nicholas II.
Imperial snuff box with the monogram of Nicholas II

  • In eighth place is another imperial snuffbox and another name important for Russian jewelry. Trading house “Bolin K.E.” was created Eduard Ludwig Bohlin, which at the end of the 19th century was considered along with Friedrich Köchli и Carl Faberge one of the three leading jewelers in St. Petersburg. A beautiful snuff box made of gold and enamel with the emperor’s monogram Nicholas II in 1912 it was presented on his behalf to the Serbian envoy Popovich. And in November 2006, at Christie’s auction they paid £344 thousand for it.
Triptych-folding company Ovchinnikov

  • Folding triptych with icons of St. Nicholas, the Mother of God and Christ Pantocrator, donated by subordinates to the general Nikolai Ivanovich Protopopov, was sold at Christie’s in 2015 for £206,5 thousand. The frames, made of gilded silver and decorated with multi-colored cloisonné and champlevé enamels, demonstrate the virtuoso silversmithing technique of the jewelery company founded by Pavel Ovchinnikov and bearing his name.
Panels of the Sazikov Company
  • “Court silver manufacturer Sazikov“- this was the official name of the company whose craftsmen created an exceptionally high-status item, sold in June 2011 at Christie’s for £181,3 thousand. A gift presented to the emperor Alexander III and the empress Maria Fedorovna Smolensk nobility in 1883 – a magnificent panel in the historicism style made of gilded silver with enamels, depicting cities and villages of the Smolensk province. Jewelers’ craftsmanship Sazikova, as well as colleagues from the company Ovchinnikova makes their works invariably in demand among connoisseurs of high-class Russian silver.

Many people believe that the famous Russian jeweler Carl Faberge only made Easter eggs for the imperial family, but this is not so. His company produced a variety of household items, including door handles, cutlery and snuff boxes, as well as various trinkets. During its existence, the Faberge company produced 250 of all kinds of things. So Alexander Ivanov’s collection began with a hare, which he bought in 000 in a customs confiscation store: “Paintings and antiques were sold there, and one day I came across a figurine by Faberge. As it turned out later, it was real. And then a receipt was attached to it, where it was written: “Faberge is in question.” The hare cost 1988 rubles.”

From the collector’s archive

Alexander Ivanov – collector, author of the book “Assaying in Russia” and creator of the world’s first Faberge Museum (Baden-Baden)

This is how a hobby was born, which Ivanov took very seriously. “When I began to understand what Faberge was, I began to study this topic. I spent three years in the archives, in particular in the Russian State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg, and for me Faberge became an open book.”

Since then, collectors have been confident in buying the jeweler’s products without fear of counterfeits. “I believe that Fabergé can be attributed to several criteria, including external impeccability and the obligatory presence of a hallmark,” he says.

Alexander has a professional understanding of Russian hallmarks: in 2002, he published a voluminous volume, “Assaying in Russia,” which the Ministry of Culture recognized as a textbook. “I haven’t seen real marks on fake things,” explains the collector. – With the exception of a few items, clearly serial ones, into which stamps taken from some teapot or knife were soldered. But this rarely happens, so we have the opportunity to buy works and exhibit them in the museum. We purchase 150–200 items a year.”

By the mid-1990s, Ivanov had amassed quite a large collection, and he started thinking about a museum. Of course in Russia, where else? But renting a mansion in Moscow for a museum turned out to be not so easy. “It would cost me $50 million, no less,” he comments sparingly.

And then Alexander turned his attention to the German resort of Baden-Baden. “This is a purely Russian city,” says the collector, meaning that Russians have long come here “for the waters.” A mansion was purchased from a large tobacco company, one of the best in the city, which was renovated and equipped with a reliable security system. The work is estimated to have cost 17 million euros.

On May 9, 2009, the museum opened. “The leadership of Germany and the state of Baden-Württemberg, as well as the burgomaster of Baden-Baden, reacted very warmly to this. They did a financial check once and that was it. The German Federal Office for Culture immediately awarded the status of a national museum to Germany – just work! For the first time, a Russian opened his own museum abroad, and it was the first Faberge museum in the world. More than 1200 guests gathered for the opening,” recalls Ivanov.

From the collector’s archive
The collection of the museum in Baden-Baden includes about 3800 objects by Faberge

Entrance is not cheap even by European standards – 16 euros. But excursions in all European languages ​​are free. The main visitors are Americans, who come in whole groups. Many Australians, Japanese, Chinese. About 20% are Russians, another 40% are Germans. The museum building occupies approximately 850 square meters. m, the area of ​​exhibition halls is about 350 sq. m. The collection has almost 3800 storage units, including three imperial eggs, but the halls can accommodate only seven hundred, so rotation has to be carried out approximately every six months. In addition to the main exhibition, there are also exhibitions. For example, “Gold of the World,” which presents the jewelry art of Central Asia, Western Europe (Celts and Normans), and pre-Columbian America. The touching exhibition “Faberge Zoo” contains animal figurines. “The Queen of England has 101 animals in her collection, we have more than 150,” boasts Ivanov.

In the museum you can also see Faberge flowers made of precious metals and semi-precious stones, numerous snuff boxes, cigarette cases, silver photo frames, and table clocks. “We have collected the entire range of works by Faberge, starting with the first works, very rare, which were produced by Gustav Faberge, the father of the famous Karl,” says the collector. – There are also products by Eric Colin, the chief master of Carl Faberge since 1872, when the Faberge company did not put its marks. A large section of the exhibition includes things made of copper, tombac (a type of brass – editor’s note) and bronze. During the First World War, Carl Faberge produced inexpensive gifts from these materials: bowlers and bowls with a double-headed eagle, which the emperor handed to soldiers when leaving for positions. Being close to the court, Faberge received a military order, including the production of bushings for shells. Holström’s workshop, which worked for him, started producing syringes – we have such a syringe. And a whole showcase dedicated to samovars. In addition, we have a huge collection of Fabergé jewelry, which you will not see in other museums, plus Karl’s sketches, letters and other documents that can be used to trace the entire history of the company.”

From the collector’s archive
Prize of the International Horse Racing in Rome, commissioned by Nicholas II

From the collector’s archive
Barometer (early 20th century)

From the collector’s archive
These lamps were created for the Indian Maharaja in 1922

From the collector’s archive
Jade Buddha formerly owned by the Onassis family

From the collector’s archive
Flower made of precious metals and semi-precious stones
Most popular galleries

Judging by the museum collection, Carl Faberge loved to joke. In Baden-Baden, such a joke of a genius is exhibited – a sculptural still life. “A brick, on it is a silver newspaper, a herring, a glass of vodka and a fried egg,” Alexander Ivanov describes it. Indeed, the jeweler created so many eggs during his life that it must have ended up as a scrambled egg! The work was purchased several years ago, and, according to the collector, it was “grazed” for about fifteen years. “We almost agreed with the owner to buy it for 200: the work is not signed, it’s just obvious that it’s Russian, but it’s impeccably made with jewelry: the brick looks like a real one, the scrambled eggs look like they’re just cooked, the flies are sitting there, the cigarette is smoking. The owner decided to evaluate the item at the Drouot auction, but on the way to Paris the glass broke off: it was glued with fish glue. They called me: “What should I do?” I answer: “We will buy it with a broken glass.” But when the glass was cleared of glue, at the bottom they saw the inscription: “Faberge.” And then the price increased sharply – we paid a million euros.”

In February 2014, the museum exhibited a unique service made in England by order of the Maharaja of Patiala, one of the richest and most influential Indian rulers of the early twentieth century. It has nothing to do with Faberge, just a very interesting artifact. “This is the largest silver service in the world,” says Ivanov. – It is designed for 180 people and includes 1500 items weighing about 700 kg. The Maharaja ordered it at the end of 1915 – beginning of 1916 for the visit of the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, to India, and it took four years to make it. After the death of the Maharaja, the service was transported to England, where we bought it at Christie’s for 2,1 million pounds.”

However, this is far from a record. In 2007, Ivanov paid 9 million pounds for a Rothschild egg clock by Faberge at Christie’s auction in London. “Faberge never fell in price,” comments the collector. – In 2010, a royal family from the Middle East officially offered me $2 billion for a museum. I didn’t sell, naturally, because it’s no longer possible to assemble such a collection.”

In Moscow, according to the collector, he has another 4000 Faberge items, which gives him reason to consider his collection the largest in the world, even among those owned by state museums.

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