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Faberge eggs are the most famous decorated Easter eggs. In 1883 the Russian Czar, Alexander, commissioned Faberge to make a special Easter gift for his wife, the Empress Marie.
This special Faberge eggs so delighted the Czarina that the Czar promptly ordered the Faberge firm to design further eggs to be delivered every Easter. In later years Nicholas II, Alexander's son,continued the custom. Fifty-seven Faberge eggs were made in all.


Faberge works were very expensive. Even the least costly items, such as the miniature pendant egg hidden inside the 1895 Hen egg, cost 60 rubles, an amount equal to two years salary for the average tradesman. But the original charge to the Czar for each of the Imperial eggs was very likely well below costs.
According to author Géza von Habsburg, "Faberge Eggs were by no means the most expensive things that the imperial family bought from Faberge. The first eggs cost something like two to four thousand dollars, approximately, at the time. Not cheap, but not expensive either. The most expensive egg was the Winter Egg of 1913. That cost just under 25,000 rubles, or about $12,500, not vastly expensive compared to necklaces that Fabergé had sold to the imperial family in 1894. For instance, the great necklace of pearls given by Nicholas II to Empress Alexandra for their betrothal cost 176,000 rubles, or some $85,000 at that time. That was big money then."

The Winter Egg brought "big money" in modern times as well. In 1949, it was sold for a mere $4,760; but in 1994, it was acquired anonymously at public auction by an American businessman for the record price of $5.5 million dollars.
During Christie's Auction on April 19 2002, Faberge scrambled the senses when its "Winter Egg" sold for $9.58 million, breaking the previous record for a Faberge egg at $3 million.
"The intrinsic value of the egg is comparatively quite low," says Von Habsburg. "The Winter Egg consists of two blocks of rock crystal – a couple of thousand dollars – a bit of platinum and some three thousand minute rose cut diamonds – another couple of thousand dollars. So all in all, if you break this egg up, what is it worth? Four or five thousand dollars. What are you paying for? The vision and genius of Faberge !"
Faberge Eggs -Winter Egg

Winter Egg
Gift Nicholas II to Maria Fyodorovna
Height: 10,2 cm

The history of the Winter Egg is one of the best documented of all Imperial Easter Eggs. Not only do we know the workmaster, the designer and even perhaps the stone carver, but we also know the egg's cost in 1913. The original Faberge bill in the Russian State Archives records the purchase of the Winter Egg by the Tsar for 24,600 rubles, the highest price ever paid for a Imperial Easter Egg. The bill also details the composition of the Egg: the body set with 1,300 rose-diamonds, the borders with 360 brilliants, and the small basket with 1,378 rose-diamonds.
The flower compositions created by Faberge, such as the basket of spring flowers in the Winter Egg, stand out among some of the most technically demanding works produced by the firm. Spring flowers were a particularly celebrated theme among the Russian elite, as a symbol of happiness and renewed hope after long and pitiless winters.
The Winter theme was introduced by Faberge's designer Alma Pihl. When asked to quickly complete a 40 piece commission for the magnate Dr. Emmanuel Nobel, Pihl drew inspiration from the sunlight sparkling through the draughty workshop's windows. This sight reminded her of an enchanted garden of frost flowers, and thus resulted in many frost-flower bracelets, pendants and brooches, set in platinum-silver and richly-set with the tiniest rose-cut diamonds. She was then asked to design the Imperial Easter Egg for the following year, The Winter Egg.
The Winter Egg brilliantly depicts this time of the year. In March, minute rivulets of water trickle down Nature's ice sculptures, glistening like diamonds in the sun. Siberian rock crystal was the perfect material to depict the ice, and in April a magic carpet of white wood anemones appears in the woods. Alma chose a small platinum basket of these heralds of spring, carved in white quartz, as the surprise inside the egg. We have no written evidence of the Dowager Empress's reaction, but Alma was asked to design Tsarina Alexandra's Easter egg the following year (the Mosaic Egg, now in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II).
The 1913 Winter Egg is made of rock crystal, platinum, rose-cut diamonds, brilliant diamonds and moonstone.The miniature basket is made of platinum, gold, white quartz, nephrite and demantoid green garnets. The Egg is set on a rock crystal base formed as a block of melting ice, applied with platinum-mounted rose-cut diamond rivulets. The hinged, rock-crystal egg is detachable and is held vertically above by a pin, with rose-diamond set platinum borders, graduated around the hinge and enclosing in the top a cabochon moonstone painted on the reverse with the date 1913, the thinly carved transparent body of the Egg finely engraved on the interior to simulate ice crystals, the outside further engraved and applied in carved channels with similar rose-diamond set platinum motifs, opening vertically. The surprise is a platinum double-handled trellis work basket, set with rose-diamonds and full of wood anemones, suspended from a platinum hook, each flower realistically carved from a single piece of white quartz with gold wire stem and stamens, the center set with a demantoid garnet, some carved half open or in a bud, the leaves delicately carved in nephrite, emerging from a bed of gold moss, the base of the basket engraved in Roman letters "Faberge 1913".
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