A nephrite egg with silver-gilt mounts

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A nephrite egg with silver-gilt mounts Faberge, maker's mark, Moscow, 1899-1908 finely carved in spinach green hardstone, with silver-gilt twist lock closure, the plush-lined interior fitted for an absent surprise height 9.1 cm, 3 1/2 in The mining of Siberian nephrite, a hardstone much admired for its rich green colour, was controlled by Imperial decree. Its inherent natural qualities, rendered exclusive by a limited supply, were further endorsed by a marked Imperial preference for objects made from the hardstone. Nephrite was used for two Imperial presentation Easter eggs: the Pansy Egg (1899) and the Empire Nephrite Egg (1902). Of deceiving simplicity, this egg shows the remarkable virtuosity of Faberge's hardstone carvers. At the point where the silver-gilt mount is fitted into the body of the egg the nephrite has been carved to a thinness of one millimetre. Originally designed to hold a surprise - the fitted lining suggests it might have contained a small basket - the base of the egg has been carved so that it balances upright, thereby avoiding the surprise being tipped out.