Oddly Enough

Faberge egg fetches record $18.5 million

LONDON (Reuters) - A previously unrecorded Faberge egg fetched nine million pounds ($18.5 million) on Wednesday, setting an auction record for the jeweler, any Russian art object and any timepiece.

The translucent pink egg contains a clock and animated cockerel and had never been seen in public before the sale was announced.

A spokesman for Christie’s said a tense auction room burst into applause when the hammer went down. The piece, not publicly documented when it was made in 1902 for the Rothschild family, went to an unidentified private Russian buyer, he added.

Anthony Philips, a Christie’s director, called the egg “one of the very best of Faberge’s greatest creations,” and added: “This is one of the most exciting moments of my 40 years at Christie’s.”

Faberge’s eggs have become a byword for opulence and luxury ever since the young jeweler was commissioned in 1885 by Tsar Alexander III of Russia to make one as a gift for his wife Maria.

According to Christie’s experts, there are only two other known Faberge eggs featuring both a clock and an automaton.

In this case the automaton is in the form of a diamond-set cockerel which pops up, flaps its wings, nods its head, opens and shuts its beak and crows every hour.

The previous auction record for a Russian art object, not including paintings, was 6.6 million pounds, set by the Faberge Winter Egg at Christie’s New York in April 2002.

Most Faberge eggs were made for the Tsar and his family, but a few were commissioned by wealthy collectors.

Tsar Alexander asked Faberge to make one egg a year until his son, the next Tsar Nicholas II, ordered him to make two a year -- one for his wife and one for his mother.

The tradition ended in 1917 when Nicholas was forced to abdicate and he and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks.

By then 50 such Imperial Easter eggs had been made, although not all have survived.

A maximum of 12 Imperial standard eggs are known to have been made for private clients.

reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato