Greek king's Fabergé collection goes on sale

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The Independent Online

A collection of art, silver and works by the legendary Russian jeweller Fabergé illustrating the vast interlocking network of European royal families in the 19th century is to be sold at auction for an estimated £1.5m.

More than 850 lots of property formerly belonging to King George I of the Hellenes, a Danish prince who was elected king by the Greek National Assembly in 1863, are being offered at Christie's next week.

The collection, which has been in storage for more than 30 years, offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives of 19th century royals, according to Harry Williams-Buckeley, the auctioneer's head of silver. "It really does give us an insight into their lives," he said. "It's something I think so many people are not aware of; how international they were as a family."

King George I, from whom the current Greek royals are descended, married a Russian arch-duchess, his sister was married to Tsar Alexander III and another married King Edward VII while his elder brother eventually became King of Denmark.

Mr Williams-Buckeley said the collection of property, much of which originally adorned the king's private country house outside Athens, was a fitting testimony to such a cosmopolitan monarch. The house, called Tatoi, at the foot of Mount Parnitha, was built in the style of an English cottage and it was where he played host to many royal visitors.

The bulk of the sale next Wednesday and Thursday is a collection of English, Danish, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese and German silver dating from the 18th to the early 20th century, with many items demonstrating the dynastic relations of the Greek royals.

A pair of large silver pilgrim flasks by Robert Garrard, the British royal goldsmith, are hailed as the finest royal silver to come to market. They were a wedding gift to King Christian IX of Denmark from George I and other family members but were later inherited by him. They are estimated to make up to £120,000. Similar flasks were exchanged between other royals, such as those given to Tsar Alexander II of Russia on his marriage to King George's sister, Maria Feodorovna, and now in the Kremlin. And there are important items by Michelsen, the royal jeweller to the Danish family, including a silver wedding anniversary present to the king from members of the European royals.

It is the Greek royals' Russian connection that leads to the inclusion of around 100 items by Fabergé, including boxes, scent bottles and cigarette cases.

One of the highlights is a striking gold-mounted Fabergé clock estimated at up to £250,000 and there is also a wide selection of miniature jewelled animals including kangaroos, dogs, rabbits, a frog and numerous elephants. The Order of the White Elephant is the Danish order of chivalry.

Mr Williams-Buckeley said the royal connection made a huge difference to many collectors. "The pieces themselves are very nice and there are things for serious silver collectors but with a smaller budget," he said.

"The lowest estimate is £50 to £80 for a little silver mug. But then there is the historical aspect of it. Here are possessions from one of the most well-connected 19th century kings."

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