Fabergé eggs were jeweled eggs made of precious metals or hard stones decorated with gems made by the House of Fabergé from 1885 through 1917. Though thousands were made, the most popular were large eggs made for Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia. These eggs are often referred to as the Imperial Fabergé eggs.
Tsar Alexander III first commissioned the House of Fabergé to make an Easter egg as a gift for his wife, the Empress Maria Fedorovna, in 1885. The egg had a gold-enameled “shell” representing a normal hen’s egg. It pulled apart to reveal a gold yolk, which in turn opened to reveal a gold chicken. The chicken also opened to show a replica of the Imperial Crown, which had a miniature ruby egg suspended from it. Though the crown and miniature egg have been lost, the rest of the Hen Egg remains in a private collection.
Of the 50 imperial eggs made, 42 have survived. Ten are on display at the Kremlin Armory Museum in Moscow. After the Russian Revolution, the House of Fabergé was taken under government ownership by the Bolsheviks, and the Fabergé family fled to Switzerland, where Peter Carl Fabergé, the designer of the original Fabergé egg, died in 1920. The Romanov palaces were ransacked and their treasures moved on order of Vladimir Lenin to the Kremlin Armory.
Two more imperial eggs, the Constellation and Karelian Birch eggs, were planned to be delivered in 1918 but never were, because Nicholas II and his family were assassinated that year and Nicholas had abdicated the crown the year before.
Of the total 65 known large Fabergé eggs, 57 have survived. The rest were miniature ones that were popular gifts during Easter season. They would be worn on a neck chain either singly or in groups.
A Winter Fabergé egg sold for $9.6 million in 2002, and a Fabergé clock, named by Christie’s auction house the Rothschild egg, sold at auction for more than $15 million in 2007. It was the most expensive timepiece, Russian object, and Fabergé object ever sold at auction.
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