‘Winter Egg’ Fetches $9.6 Million

Carl Fabergé’s Winter Egg, reportedly the rarest and most expensive of the Russian Imperial Easter eggs, was sold on April 19 at Christie’s New York auction house for $9.6 million—a new world record for a Fabergé Imperial Egg.

“And its value is only going to go up,” says Joyce Jonas, an estate jewelry expert in New York City. “It’ll be $20 million in another 10 years.”

How can Jonas make such a prediction? “Find me another one,” she says. “That’s the key—and you can’t find another. That’s why the price goes the way it does.”

The Winter Egg, which is carved from rock crystal quartz, doesn’t have Fabergé’s signature enamel and gold. Its interior and exterior are engraved to look like frosted glass, hiding the “surprise” basket of anemones hung inside. Platinum ice crystals set with rose-cut diamonds are applied to the exterior of the egg.

Atop the egg is a cabochon moonstone with the date 1913—the year of the Romanov Dynasty’s tercentenary—painted on its underside. The egg rests on a rock crystal base carved as a melting block of ice and dripping with more platinum-set rose-cut diamonds. There are 1,308 rose-cut diamonds on the egg and melting ice.

The surprise basket of flowers represents spring emerging from winter. Each flower is carved from a single piece of white quartzite, with gold wire stems and stamens, each holding a demantoid garnet. (Close examination of the basket reveals that a few of the petal tips have been broken off.) The stems hold intricately carved nephrite leaves, all resting in gold wire “moss.” Another 1,378 rose-cuts are set into the platinum wire basket. Like other Imperial Eggs, it took approximately one year to complete.

Fabergé Eggs. The house of Fabergé produced a great number of jeweled eggs, but only 50 Imperial Eggs, created between 1885 and 1916 for Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II, who presented them each year to the Empresses and Dowager Empress at Easter. Tsar Nicholas II gave the Winter Egg to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. Forty-two of the Imperial Eggs are in museums and private collections, including the Kremlin Museum in Moscow, which holds 10, and the Forbes Magazine Galleries in Manhattan, which displays nine. Queen Elizabeth has three in her private collection, 17 others are located in the United States, two are in Switzerland, and one is in Monaco. Eight Imperial Eggs are missing.

The Winter Egg was last sold on Nov. 16, 1994, at Christie’s in Geneva. An anonymous collector paid $5.6 million, a record at the time for an Imperial Egg. The original selling price in 1913 was 24,600 rubles (about $230,000 in today’s dollars), which eventually ranked it as the most expensive of all the Imperial Eggs. Fewer than a dozen Imperial Eggs have been offered at auction.

For more information about the Winter Egg, log on to Christie’s Web site at www.christies.com.