US metal dealer discovers he has £20m nest-egg
A scrap metal dealer who bought an ornament from a bric-a-brac market to be melted down for its gold has discovered it is a £20m (€23.8m) Fabergé egg.
The dealer – who wants to remain anonymous – struggled to sell the egg, so kept it in his kitchen for years until he searched online for "egg" and "Vacheron Constantin", a name etched on the timepiece inside. The result was an article with the headline: "Is this £20m nest-egg on your mantelpiece?"
The article reported the search for a Fabergé missing for 90 years, which contained a timepiece by the Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin.
The dealer contacted the Fabergé expert named in the piece, Kieran McCarthy of the Mayfair jeweller Wartski, who flew to the US to verify the discovery.
Mr McCarthy likened the moment he saw the egg to "Indiana Jones being presented with the Lost Ark".
"I examined it and said, 'You have an Imperial Fabergé Easter Egg.' And he practically fainted."
Carl Fabergé designed the egg for the Russian royal family, and it was given by Alexander III to the Tsarina in 1887.
The egg ended up in the US, but its provenance was lost, and it was bought by the dealer a decade ago for £8,000 based on its weight and estimated value of the diamonds and sapphires in the decoration.
Wartski bought the egg on behalf of a Fabergé collector in January.