This is the most popular of all the Faberge eggs. This superb red gold egg enamelled translucent lime yellow on a guilloché field of starbursts (reminiscent of the gold robe worn by the empress at her Coronation), is trellised by with bands of greenish gold laurel leaves mounted at each intersection by a gold Imperial double-headed eagle enamelled opaque black, and set with a rose diamond on its chests. This pattern was drawn from the cloth-of-gold Coronation Robe worn by the Empress.
A large portrait diamond is set in the top of the egg within a cluster of ten brilliant diamonds; through the table of this stone, the monogram of the Empress is seen. A smaller portrait diamond is set within a cluster of rose diamonds at the end of the egg, beneath which the date is inscribed on a similar plaque. The name Wigström is roughly scratched on the inner surface of the shell. The egg was delivered, together with a glass-enclosed jadeite stand for the display of the Carriage, at a cost of 5650 rubles.
Nicholas loved the pomp and ritual of military life and Imperial ceremony, which required him only to look good and say little. On May 9, 1896, Nicholas and Alexandra were crowned in the Uspenski Cathedral in Moscow in one of the most magnificent pageants in Russian history. Attended by over seven thousand guests from around the world, including most of Europe's royalty, the celebrations lasted for two weeks. To commemorate the event, Faberge's Coronation egg (1897) was larger and more lavish than any before.
This egg seems to be one of which Alexandra was also not too fond. It is interesting to speculate that memories of the coronation were spoiled for Alexandra by memories of the massacre on the Khodinka field, when hundreds of peasants hoping for free food and souvenirs were crushed to death in a riot.
The egg, kept at the Winter Palace, wound its way to Moscow and Antikvariat, where it was purchased by Snowman of Wartski. In 1934 it was sold to Charles Parsons, but was bought back after the war in 1945 by Wartski. In March of 1979 it was sold to Forbes for $2,160,000.00 along with the another egg.
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.
To make this egg even more magnificent, Fabergé enclosed an extraordinary detailed jeweled "surprise" fitted inside a velvet-lined compartment: a precise replica - under four inches long - of the eighteenth-century Imperial coach that carried Alexandra to her coronation in Moscow at the Uspensky Cathedral in May 1896.
In yellow gold and translucent strawberry-colored enamel, the coach is surmounted by the Imperial crown in rose-cut diamonds and six double-headed eagles on the roof; it is fitted with engraved rock crystal windows and platinum tires and is decorated with a diamond-set trellis in gold and an Imperial eagle in diamonds on either door. It is perfectly articulated in all its parts, even to the two steps that may be let down when the doors are opened, and the whole chassis is correctly slung. The interior is enameled with pale blue curtains behind the upholstered seats and footstool, and has a daintily painted ceiling with a turquoise-blue sconce and hook set in the center. The hook may have once held a tiny egg-shaped, briolette-cut emerald pendant, which is now missing along with the original display case and the egg's stand.
The original carriage was designed for Nicholas' great-great-great-grandmother, Catherine the Great in 1793. During the time it took to complete the replica, master craftsman George Stein made numerous clandestine visits to the imperial stables in order to perfectly match his work to the original. The model mimics every moving part of its prototype, right down to a working suspension.
According to author Lynette Proler, "It was all done by hand and crafted by hand in such minute detail - every detail from the state carriage was included - from the little crown on the top of it in diamonds to the windows in rock crystal. And the little steps... when the Empress would alight from the carriage onto the steps, they would fall out of the carriage, and in the little miniature they do the same. It took approximately fifteen months to craft this carriage by hand working all day and well into the night, seven days a week, and it was barely finished just in time to be presented to the Empress."
Ironically, when the Hermitage recently undertook to refurbish the original, Margaret Kelly, Director of the Forbes Magazine Collection, provided them with detailed photos of the Coronation egg from which to work!
A 1909 inventory of items in the Imperial family's apartments at the Winter Palace adds that the egg was supported on a silver gilt stand. The inventory says the pendant was a briolette-cut yellow diamond. It also says the coach was housed separately “on a rectangular jadeite pediment with a silver-gilt rim and is contained in a glass case with silver-gilt edging."