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Vekselberg Faberge Eggs Collection

Viktor VekselbergViktor Vekselberg, Chairman of board of directors of The Russian Open Society “ SUAL-HOLDING” has purchased Faberge Eggs Collection from successors to Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) and has made it accessible to the Russian citizens. Sale of the Forbes’ collection from auction “Sotheby’s” in the beginning of 2004 (though some tens of items from the Forbes’ collection have been already sold two or three years earlier) could make objects channel off in separate collections and countries. Purchasing of the whole collection by V.Vekselberg before advertised bidding has become unprecedented in auction practice.


Some interesting facts about Vekselberg Faberge Eggs Collection

The Savior of the imperial collection accused of taking a counterfeit
Antiquarian Scandal from "Kommersant"

“Spring Flowers", one of the Easter eggs bought by Viktor Vekselberg in the spring of 2004 from inheritors of the Forbes fortune, is a counterfeit, according to Valentin Skurlov, an expert in the Russian department of Christie's auction house. Vekselberg's representatives do not doubt the authenticity of the object, however.

In January of this year, an article was published on the website of the Russian National Museum, which owns the second largest (after Vekselberg's) private collection of Faberge items in Russia, by well-known art expert Valentin Skurlov and Tatiana Faberge, great-granddaughter of the famous jeweler, in which it is claimed that the egg known as “Spring Flowers” made by Mikhail Perkhin is a counterfeit.

Tatiana Faberge was born in Geneva in 1930. She worked for 38 years as secretary of the Theory Division of the European Organization for Nuclear Research and knows six languages. She also worked with her father Fedor Faberge as a designer of jewelry “in the style of Faberge.” She is an honorary representative of the Carl Faberge Memorial Foundation and a bearer of the Order of Carl Faberge, second degree.

Valentin Skurlov was born in Leningrad in 1947. He graduated from the Leningrad Trade Institute. From 1985 to 1999, he was a department head and senior scientist at the Scientific Research Institute of the Jewelry Industry. He has been a researcher and consultant on Faberge for the Russian division of Christie's Auction House since 1996. He is a bearer of the Order of Carl Faberge, first degree.

Their announcement was giving sensational treatment in the press a month after it was first published. A number of questions came up at once, the main one of which was why the Faberge experts chose that moment, a year after the deal was made for the egg, to their speak up.

Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg obtained the Faberge collection through the Sotheby's Auction House in February 2004, without even waiting for it to come up for auction. The Link of Times not-for-profit organization set up by Vekselberg bought nine imperial Easter eggs and another 190 items made by the jewelry firm. The items came from the collection of Forbes magazine founder Malcolm Forbes and were estimated to cost over $100 million.

Forbes began collecting articles from the Russian court jeweler in 1960 and developed the largest private collection of Faberge in the world. He had just one imperial Easter egg less than the Armoury Chamber at the Kremlin. After the magnate's death in 1990, his heirs began to sell the collection. Christie's sold 69 items in 2002. The rest o f the collection was to be disposed of through Sotheby's in April 2004. However, Vekselberg convinced the Forbes family to sell everything to him without an auction, promising to keep the items together and return them to Russia. He kept his word. The items were returned to their historical homeland and soon put on display at the Hermitage and Kremlin. Vekselberg was thus able to obtain the world's biggest private collection of Faberge and a reputation as a patriot.

After analyzing archival material and specialized literature and comparing Spring Flowers with typologically similar Faberge imperial Easter eggs (it is made of red enamel with a “surprise,” a basket of flowers hidden inside it) and counterfeits, or Fauxberge, as they are called, Skurlov came to the conclusion that the egg was made in 1961 and has no connection with the Carl Faberge firm. Several factors determined this finding, but Skurlov emphasized the following: “On the lower rim, which is encrusted with diamonds, the quality of their attachment is very poor, and the diamonds are not standard, they are all of different sizes. That is absolutely not characteristic of Faberge production.” Skurlov is so sure of the correctness of his conclusions that he said in a television interview that “It costs $15,000 to make an egg like that.”

Forbes, who bought the egg in 1966, was sure that it was an imperial Easter egg. However, it was demonstrated in a number of publications in the 1990s that it is not imperial, since it has an inventory number, and inventory numbers were given only to eggs sold in Faberge's store. Nonetheless, art experts had not doubted the authenticity of the egg until now, not at the Hermitage or the Kremlin or anywhere else. This was confirmed by Mark Schaffer, a representative of the well-known antiquary store La Vieille Russie in New York City, where the egg was first sold in 1961. He told Kommersant by telephone, “Theoretically, the egg might really not be imperial, but there can be no question of it being counterfeit. I have no information about whether or not Mr. Vekselberg obtained the egg as imperial, or how much he obtained it for. You have to ask him that yourself. For those reasons, it is hard for me to say how Mr. Skurlov's statement will affect the price of the egg.”

Andrey Storkh, a representative of the Link of Times foundation told Kommersant that there is no doubt of the authenticity of Spring Flowers, that Skurlov has not examined the egg himself and that his conclusions are nonsense. “We have one question,” Storkh said. “that is what he can determine from photographs. The egg had been on the market since 1961 and one imagines that it has been seen and held in the hands of the world's leading specialists. It has a solid provenance.” Now lawyers from the Link of Times are examining to what extent Skurlov's statement has damaged the foundation's reputation and it is possible that a suit will be filed in that connection. The foundation is also considering contacting law enforcement agencies (maybe not exclusively Russian) to ask that they investigate the motivation of the statements. The Link of Times has information that “the agitation around the egg in the Viktor Vekselberg collection may be connected to interested parties who want to purge the market in order to place another counterfeit on it.”

In any other sphere of the antiquarian market, the discovery of a counterfeit automatically lowers the price for similar pieces. But it is different for the eggs. There is a list of items confiscated from Empress Maria Fedorovna in 1917 where all the gifts made to the imperial family for the two previous decades are listed. If it is shown that the egg is mentioned on that list, its price will immediately soar. That in fact happened with Spring Flowers when it was declared imperial. Then it was shown that it is not imperial, and the next step was to declare it counterfeit. On the 1917 list, there is an entry for a “pouch-egg of red enamel.” If another egg turns up that fits that meager description in place of the one just declared counterfeit, it would sell very for a very high price. Kommersant has learned that the so-called Metzger Egg from the collection of Michel Kommedian is being offered for sale. Skurlov mentioned in his commentary for Kommersant that it looks nothing like Spring Flowers, but more like Bouquet of Lilies, which is in the Armoury Chamber.

Sensational finds of new eggs do happen. In 2002, fragments of the last, unfinished Faberge egg, The Prince's Constellation, were found in a storeroom of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum. The Russian National Museum presented another late Faberge imperial egg at a recent antiquarian salon in Moscow. That egg was wooden, made of Karelian birch. Those finds had documentary confirmation.

If other experts agree with Skurlov's conclusions, Vekselsberg's foundation will have no choice but to make a claim against Sotheby's. Here Vekselberg runs up against his decision to buy the items before they reached auction. Sotheby's takes full responsibility for the items sold at its auctions, but the auction house was only served as an intermediary and provided no guarantee.

The Idea that I Cannot Examine the Egg without Holding It in My Hands Is a Primitive Point of View

Valentin Skurlov's comments for "Kommersant"

When I read Geza von Habsburg's book Faberge: Treasures of Imperial Russia, published by the Link of Times Foundation with a multitude of errors, especially the falsified story of the sale of the egg through state firm Antikvariat in the 1930s, my patience was exhausted. The idea that I cannot examine the egg without holding it in my hands is a primitive point of view. It is not always necessary. I saw it through glass about five times. It is too bad that they did not buy the collection through Sotheby's. Then there would have been a pre-auction examination a week in advance and experts from the world over would be able to examine it. Now no one knows who examined the collection before the (I emphasize this) direct sale of the collection by the Forbes to Vekselberg. I don't think that one counterfeit egg casts a shadow over the whole collection, but it is a bad apple.

I think that no appropriate full examination was made of the Faberge items from the Forbes collection. No metallurgical examination was made, for example. The basket of an 1892 egg is made of gold and platinum, but Faberge started using platinum only in 1908. I am a specialist in Faberge and can guarantee that the attribution does not meet the norms of Assay Instructions.

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