A Fabergé egg found at a flea market by a scrap-metal dealer who initially didn't realize the value of what he had discovered will be on public view for the first time in more than a century, according to a British art and antiques dealer.
The egg, thought to have been made in the late 19th century for Russian royalty, was purchased years ago at a U.S. flea market for just $14,000, said the antiques dealer, Wartski. The buyer was interested in the item for its gold content but later suspected the piece might be even more valuable. The egg was later sold to a private collector.
The identities of the buyer and seller haven't been revealed. Wartski didn't disclose how much was paid for the egg, but some estimates put its value as high as $33 million. It will be on display at Wartski in London from April 14 to 17.
The antiques dealer said that the egg was made in the workshop of Fabergé's chief jeweler, August Holmström, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1886 or 1887. The egg features a surprise inside: a lady's watch with a white enamel dial and openwork diamond-set gold hands.
Czar Alexander III gave the egg to his wife, Empress Maria Feodorovna, on Easter in 1887. After the Russian revolution, the egg somehow made its way to the West, where it was sold in 1964 at a New York auction for just $2,450.
The discovery of the egg is significant because many of the valuable Fabergé creations have been lost to history.
A report in Britain's Telegraph newspaper said that the scrap-metal dealer who bought the egg lived in a modest home in the Midwest. The residence was "next to a highway and a Dunkin' Donuts. There was the egg, next to some cupcakes on the kitchen counter," a Wartski representative told the newspaper.
Wartski has posted a detailed history of the egg on its website.