We are very busy this Easter at Hungerford Arcade and it seemed very appropriate to Blog an article written by television antiques expert, Mark Stacey who you will know from the BBC's Flog It, Bargain Hunt, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, Antiques Road Trip and many more shows. Mark kindly wrote this wonderful article for our Newsletter some time ago on Faberge` eggs. It is a fascinating article which I am sure you will enjoy.
The first Imperial Easter Egg, The Hen Egg, was created in 1885 for Czar Alexander III to give to his wife the Empress Maria, possibly to commemorate the anniversary of their betrothal 20 years earlier.
It had a simple white enamelled outer simulating eggshell and opened to reveal a golden yolk that itself contained a surprise - a varicoloured gold hen with ruby eyes. Inside the hen was a gold and diamond miniature of the Imperial crown, and suspended within the crown was a tiny ruby pendant.
Fabergé was given complete control over the designs, which were a closely guarded secret, and each year the Imperial Easter Eggs became more imaginative and more extravagant. Even the Czar was unaware of what Fabergé was planning. However, each kept to his desire that they contain a surprise.
The Hen Egg
The Rosebud Egg
This tradition was continued by the Czar’s son and successor Nicholas II who, each year, commissioned two Easter eggs, one to give to his mother the Dowager Empress and the other for his wife, Alexandra. Following Czar Alexander’s death in October 1894, Fabergé had to work quickly to create an egg for Czar Nicholas to give to his new wife for their first Easter together.
The Rosebud Egg, the first Imperial Easter Egg received by the new Czarina from her adoring husband Nicholas II, is only 3 inches high with an enamelled strawberry red outer which divides into 4 vertical panels. The top section of each panel is decorated with laurel wreaths and ribbons set with diamonds, the lower section has laurel entwined with diamond-set Cupid’s arrows. On the top of the egg is a miniature portrait of Tsar Nicholas II. The surprise inside was another symbol of the couple's love for one another - an enamelled golden yellow rosebud. For the homesick young bride, this was also a reminder of her native Germany where yellow was the most prized colour of rose. Inside the rosebud was a tiny diamond-set Imperial crown, representing her new life as the Empress of Russia.
Each of the Imperial Easter Eggs is full of symbolism important to the two Empresses Maria and Alexandra, and to Russian culture in general. For example, the Coronation Egg with its miniature replica of an Imperial coach commemorates the coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Fyodorovna on 26 May 1896.
Fabergé also produced 12 eggs, equal in standard to the Imperial Easter Eggs, for other select private clients, including the Duchess of Marlborough, the Rothschilds and the Kelch family.
After the Bolshevik revolution the House of Fabergé was nationalised and Fabergé escaped from Russia, finally taking refuge in Switzerland where he died on 24 September 1920.
During the 1920's and 30's Stalin authorised the sale of Imperial Easter Eggs to raise much needed foreign currency and fourteen left the country to buyers such Armand Hammer, president of Occidental Petroleum, and Wartski, a family owned firm of antique dealers based in London.
Naturally anything connected to Fabergé is highly sought after and generates wide interest. In November 2007 Christies auctioned the Rothschild’s Clock Egg, which had never been seen in public before - it fetched £8.9 million.
The exceptionally large gold and translucent pink egg has a clock for a face and a diamond-encrusted cockerel which nods its head and flaps its wings on the stroke of each hour.
The Rothschild Clock Egg
Stuart Devlin Hedgehog Egg
For buyers with a more limited budget why not look at the work of well-known silver designer Stuart Devlin.
Born in Australia, Devlin became part a group of designers that turned their back on working for large silversmith and produced the very recognisable bark finishes of the 1960's and 70's. Throughout his career he has produced distinctive limited edition silver and silver gilt eggs that contain surprises and gifts in the interior, these have became very collectible and now range from £300 - £1,000.
Well I know what I would to like find on my Easter hunt, but alas it will probably only be a small chocolate Easter egg.