In 1917 Tsar Nicholas II's family knew that they were in jeopardy. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, wife of the Tsar's son, asked a friend, an artist, to take away 50 cigarette case and 70 pairs of cufflinks in a pillowcase to make sure they didn't fall into the hands of others.
Whilst of great monetary value, some of the pieces obviously had huge sentimental value for their owner.
The pieces recently showed up in Sweden. Works of great beauty created by Fabergé, they were expected to fetch as much as £1m when sold by Sothebys in London.
In fact they sold for a little more: £7m.
Bidders at the auction were intoxicated by the exquisite nature of the pieces and the story of an era coming to a close in the Russian Empire, and competed furiously for several of the items.
It is difficult to know which lots to concentrate on with so many selling for six figures at ten times their estimates, or more.
Perhaps the best performing lot in the entire sale was a pair of gold cufflinks used as a tenth wedding anniversary gift. The cufflinks have the date(s) 16 August (in Cyrillic) 1874/1884 around an 'X' (for ten) created from rubies on one cufflink and sapphires on the other. The £3,000-5,000 listing looked absurd by the time the hammer came down... they were taken away for £103,250.
A primarily green enamel shaped box, set with the cipher of Tsar Nicholas II (with diamond edges) with edges and base made from yellow and rose gold, sold for $601,250. The box, given as a present for some unknown event, came with a short note written by Nicholas II:
"Alix and I ask you to accept this small present as a souvenir of this day! Nicky"
This goes a little way to explaining its performance against the estimate of $70,000-90,000.
Even this, however, seemed unremarkable compared to a 10cm cigarette case with rose and green gold wavy patterns, yellow gold hearts and tiny diamonds. The clasp is set with a ruby catch.
Despite not being associated with any particular event, the piece rocketed past its £25,000-35,000 to sell for 601,250.
Marginally the top lot was a four-colour gold cigarette case in neoclassical style created as a gift celebrating the 25th wedding anniversary of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich in 1899.
One of the last lots, it provoked furious competition between bidders who flatly ignored the £50,000-70,000 estimate, with the winner taking it away for £612,000.
These lots, which were just four of many amazing sales on the day give a fantastic example of how passionately people will pursue objects of beauty associated with a story from history.
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