Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

20 million UKP Faberge egg that was almost sold for scrap


#1

A scrap metal dealer bought an ornament to be melted down for its
gold - until he read a Telegraph article revealing it to be a UKP20
million Faberge egg

By Anita Singh

A scrap metal dealer who bought an ornament from a bric-a-brac
market to be melted down for its gold discovered it is a UKP20
million Faberge egg after finding a Telegraph article online.

The extraordinary find has been likened by the expert who verified
it to “Indiana Jones being presented with the Lost Ark” a trail that
began in Tsarist Russia and ended in the kitchen of a house in the
American Mid West overlooking a branch of Dunkin’ Donuts.

The Imperial Easter Egg was designed by Carl Faberge for Tsar
Alexander III in 1887 and seized by the Bolsheviks during the
Russian Revolution.

It eventually turned up on an antiques stall in the US a decade ago,
its provenance unknown to the vendor.

The Love Punch synopsis and trailer The Love Punch It was spotted by
a dealer who bought and sold gold for scrap value. Knowing nothing
of the egg’s history, he purchased it for ?8,000 based on its weight
and estimated value of the diamonds and sapphires featured in the
decoration.

He intended to sell it on to a buyer who would melt it down, turning
a quick profit of a few hundred pounds. But prospective buyers
thought he had over-estimated the price and turned him down.

The egg languished in his kitchen for years until one night in 2012,
when he Googled “egg"and"Vacheron Constantin”, a name etched on the
timepiece inside.

The result was a Telegraph article published a year earlier,
featuring a picture of his egg and the title: “Is this ?20 million
nest-egg on your mantelpiece?” The dealer who wishes to remain
anonymous, given his newfound wealth contacted the Faberge expert
named in the article, Kieran McCarthy of Mayfair jeweller Wartski.

Mr McCarthy said: "He saw the article and recognised his egg in the
picture. He flew straight over to London the first time he had ever
been to Europe and came to see us. He hadn’t slept for days.

“He brought pictures of the egg and I knew instantaneously that was
it. I was flabbergasted it was like being Indiana Jones and finding
the Lost Ark.” Mr McCarthy flew to the US to verify the discovery.

"It was a very modest home in the Mid West, next to a highway and a
Dunkin’ Donuts. There was the egg, next to some cupcakes on the
kitchen counter.

“I examined it and said, 'You have an Imperial Faberge Easter Egg.'
And he practically fainted. He literally fell to the floor in
astonishment.” The dealer etched Mr McCarthy’s name and the date
into the wooden bar stool on which Mr McCarthy sat to examine the
egg, marking the day that his life changed forever.

Wartski bought the egg on behalf of a Faberge collector.

The dealer is stunned by his newfound wealth and “petrified” of
being publicly identified, Mr McCarthy said.

"He’s from another world entirely. It’s a world of diners and
pick-up trucks, real blue-collar America, and he and his partner are
still stunned by all this.

"When I saw them in January, they hadn’t moved out but they were
going to, although I think it was just to a bigger house around the
corner. They’ve also bought a new car.

"It’s the same as winning the EuroMillions, except better in a way
because he invested some money in this piece and hung on to it
because he was too stubborn to sell it for a loss.

The egg languished in the owner’s kitchen for years “I have been
around the most marvellous discoveries in the art world, but I don’t
think I’ve ever seen one quite like this finding this extraordinary
treasure in the middle of nowhere.” The egg has several scratches on
it where the metal was tested for its gold content by prospective
buyers.

“The scratches make it more valuable, not less,” said Mr McCarthy.
“We thought about removing them, but in the end the new buyer
thought they enhanced the piece because they are part of its
history.” The egg was one of 50 created by Faberge for the Russian
Royal family. Measuring 8.2cm high, it was given by Tsar Alexander
III to the Tsarina for Easter 1887.

It was last seen in public in March 1902, as part of an exhibition
of Imperial treasures in St Petersburg.

Seized by the Bolsheviks, it was last recorded in Moscow in 1922
when the Soviets decided to sell it as part of their ‘Treasures into
Tractors’ policy.

In 2011, Faberge researchers found the first proof that the egg
survived into the middle of the 20th century: a picture in a 1964
catalogue for Parke Bernet, the New York auction house later
acquired by Sotheby’s. It was described as a “Gold Watch in Egg-Form
Case” and sold for ?875 to a female buyer from the Deep South.

She died in the early 2000s, and her estate sold off. The egg, not
believed to be of great value, found its way to the bric-a-brac
market.

Mr McCarthy said: “This should give hope to every antiques enthusiast
out there. There are great treasures still to be found.” The current
owner is lending the egg to Wartski for public display from April
14-17 at the firm’s headquarters in Grafton Street, Mayfair.