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A Fabergé egg (Russian: Яйца Фаберже; Yaĭtsa Faberzhe) is any one of the thousands of jeweled eggs made by the House of Fabergé from 1885 through 1917. The story began when Tsar Alexander III decided to give his wife the Empress an Easter Egg in 1885, possibly to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their betrothal.
It is believed that the Tsar’s inspiration for the piece was an egg owned by the Empress’s aunt, Princess Wilhelmine Marie of Denmark, which had captivated Maria’s imagination in her childhood.
Known as the Hen Egg, it is crafted from gold. Its opaque white enameled ‘shell’ opens to reveal its first surprise, a matte yellow gold yolk.
This in turn opens to reveal a multi-coloured gold hen that also opens. It contains a minute diamond replica of the Imperial Crown from which a small ruby pendant was suspended.
The majority of these were miniature ones that were popular gifts at Eastertide. They would be worn on a neck chain either singly or in groups.
The most famous eggs produced by the House were the larger ones made for Alexander III and Nicholas II of Russia. Of the 50 made, 42 have survived.
A further two eggs were planned but not delivered, the Constellation and Karelian Birch eggs for 1918, as Nicholas II and his family were assassinated that year, and Nicholas had abdicated the crown the year before.