Alexander III died on 20 October 1894. Tsar Nicholas II came to the throne and an Easter egg had to be made urgently for the new Empress, Alexandra Fedorovna, whom he had married on 14 November, just a few weeks after the death of his father. In Germany, Alexandra Fedorovna's native country, yellow was regarded as the noblest and worthiest color for a rose (the golden rose), and Peter Carl Fabergé therefore considered this to be an appropriate surprise within this egg for her.
It whereabouts unknown for decades, the Imperial Rosebud Egg is the first egg to be presented by Czar Nicholas II to his wife Czarina Alexandra Feodrovna on Easter 1895, and one of the smallest of the Imperial Easter Eggs from the House of Fabergé. For the new Czarina, Fabergé trimmed the strawberry red Rosebud egg with rows of diamonds. Gold laurel swags that are pendants from rosecut diamonds and wreaths, Cupid's arrows and ribbons embellish the egg. A miniature of Czar Nicholas II surmounts the egg, and the year is set in the base beneath a diamond.
This egg, which cost 3,250 rubles, was kept in the Study of Empress Alexandra at the Winter Palace. It is interesting to note that of all of the Eggs of the Empress Alexandra, only a few were kept with her at the Alexander Palace, where she actually lived. It appears that eggs with references to family members, or with "Russian" themes were kept with her, while more arcane subjects were relegated to the Winter Palace, which she rarely visited.
The egg was transferred to Moscow in 1917 along with the other eggs at the Winter Palace, and by 1925 had been slated for sale through Antikvariat. The egg was sold to Emanuel Snowman of Wartski, and by 1935 was owned by Charles Parsons who exhibited it with its surprises. The egg was then sold to Henry Talbot DeVere Clifton. During this period, it is rumored that the egg was hurled by Mr. Clifton at his wife, and so for years, it was rumored destroyed. But in 1985, repaired and missing its surprises, the egg appeared with the Fine Art Society in London, and was sold to the Forbes collection.
After eighty years of exile this egg has been returned home thanks to Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg, Chairman of board of directors of Open Society "Sual-holding" who has purchased it from successors to Malcolm Forbes and has made it accessible to the Russian citizens. Sale of the Forbes' collection from Sotheby's auction in the beginning of 2004 could make objects channel off in separate collections and countries. Purchasing of the whole collection by V. Vekselberg before the advertised bidding is unprecedented in auction practice.
The egg opens to reveal a hinged yellow rosebud. The bud in turn originally contained two tiny surprises, a miniature replica of the Imperial crown, representing Alexandra's new life as the Empress of Russia, and a ruby egg pendant hanging within it. The rosebus is another symbol of the couple's love for one another. For the homesick young girl, the egg was also a reminder of her native country of Germany, where the golden yellow rose is the most prized color.
Like the almost identical crown and pendant of the first imperial egg, these two surprises were separated from the egg before it was sold by the Soviet government in the 1920s; their present whereabouts are unknown. (© 2004 Mr. Victor Vekselberg's Foundation)
The old photograph at the right, from the Fabergé archives, shows the Egg with the three surprises. (from: http://www.mieks.com/Faberge2/Eggs.htm)