© 2004 Associated Press
Historic Faberge eggs returning to Russia
Thursday, February 5, 2004 Posted: 1:07 PM EST (1807 GMT)
NEW YORK (AP) - A collection of historic Faberge eggs commissioned by the czars of Russia may soon be on their way home after being snapped up by a Russian businessman two months before they were to be auctioned.
The Forbes collection of more than 180 Faberge art pieces - including nine rare Imperial Easter Eggs - were bought by billionaire Victor Vekselberg, Sotheby's said Wednesday.
The purchase price wasn't disclosed.
The auction house had estimated the entire collection at up to $90 million. The Coronation Egg - the most valued piece - could have fetched as much as $24 million at auction, Sotheby's said.
The private sale negotiated by Sotheby's on behalf of the Forbes family "happened very quickly," said Diana Phillips, an auction house spokeswoman. She wouldn't disclose the purchase price but said: "It was a very serious offer that the Forbes family accepted."
Sotheby's had planned to auction the items in April.
"The Faberge Egg collection," said Vekselberg, "represents perhaps the most significant example of our cultural heritage outside Russia. The religious, spiritual and emotional content captured by these Faberge eggs touches upon the soul of the Russian people."
Carl Faberge, who created jewelry for European royalty, was commissioned by Czar Alexander III in 1885 to create an Easter gift for his wife, Czarina Marina Feodorovna. Nicholas II continued the tradition, and the collection grew.
The eggs, about 5 inches tall, are intricately designed and individually crafted. The Coronation Egg is made of gold enamel and contains a replica of the coach Czarina Alexandra rode into Moscow in 1897.
Malcolm S. Forbes, the late publisher and editor of Forbes magazine, collected the eggs from the 1960s until his death in 1990. His family had said the auction would free it from the upkeep of the collection.
The eggs and other choice pieces from the collection, including stone carvings, gold cigarette cases and gem-studded picture frames, will be displayed at Sotheby's New York galleries - on a date to be announced later - before Vekselberg returns the collection to Russia.
In a statement issued by Sotheby's, the Forbes family said it was "delighted that the advent of a new era in Russia has made possible the return of these extraordinary objects. It is an astonishingly romantic ending to one of the great stories in art history."
Only the Kremlin owns more Faberge Imperial eggs - at 10.
Vekselberg is chairman of the board of directors of Renova, an investment and business development company. He was instrumental in forging a Russian-U.S. partnership that acquired the controlling rights to Tyumen Oil Company, now Russia's third largest oil and gas company.