LONDON - One of the eight missing imperial Faberge eggs will go on show in London next month after it was purchased by a scrap metal dealer in a flea market in the United States.
London antique dealer Wartski said the man bought the egg a few years ago for about US$14,000 (S$17,800), completely unaware that it was worth about US$33 million (S$42 million).
The man thought he could make a quick US$500 profit by selling it on as scrap metal, but by a stroke of fortune he was unable to find a buyer and so the egg was saved from being melted down.
The egg, which contains a Vacheron Constantin watch, sits on a jewelled gold stand and was given by Alexander III to his wife Empress Maria Feodorovna in Easter 1887. It is one of only 50 imperial Faberge eggs ever made.
The egg became a financial burden to its owner.
One evening, he typed "egg" and "Vacheron Constantin" into an Internet search engine and found a an article in Britain's Daily Telegraph about its background, quoting Kieran McCarthy, director of Wartski, who are experts on the works of Carl Faberge.
The owner was so astonished by what he had read that he flew to London to show it to McCarthy, who was left speechless.
Wartski bought the egg for a private collector - for an undisclosed sum - and the new owner has allowed it to be displayed for four days at Wartski's premises in London from April 14.
McCarthy said: "It's the most incredible discovery. We have so many discoveries but none of them are as momentous as this. It has travelled from Imperial St Petersburg to the rust belt of America. It's a story that deserves to be told because it could so easily have slipped away.
"For the Faberge community and the historical community, it is a wondrous event because the Easter egg is the ultimate target for every antique dealer and every enthusiast."
The egg was last seen in public 112 years ago at an exhibition of the Russian Imperial family's Faberge collection in St Petersburg. In the chaos of the Russian revolution, the Bolsheviks confiscated the valuable egg from the empress.
There is a record of it in Moscow in 1922 when the Soviets decided to sell it, but its fate was then unknown and it was long feared that it could have been melted down for its gold value.
But in 2011 Faberge researchers found the egg had been sold in New York in March 1964 for just US$2,450, or US$18,500 in today's prices.
It was sold as a "gold watch in egg form case" without its provenance being known, sparking its extraordinary journey to the Midwest of the United States.