Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
This elegant cigarette case has a provenance unique in the history of the royal collection of Fabergé, having left the collection in 1911 only to be returned over twenty years later. The case represents one of Fabergé’s greatest expressions of the Art Nouveau style, with its sinuous diamond-set snake entwined around the front and back of the box. The moiré guilloché enamel is in one of Fabergé’s most exceptional colours. But the design is not purely decorative; the snake biting its tail is a symbol of unbroken and everlasting love and thus it is not surprising to learn that the case was given to King Edward VII by his favourite mistress, Mrs George Keppel, in 1908. Perhaps recognising the significance of the gift, Queen Alexandra returned it to Mrs Keppel as a memento following the King’s death in 1910. Twenty-five years later, in 1936, Mrs Keppel gave the case to Queen Mary, thereby ensuring that it would remain in royal ownership.
Moscow gold mark of 56 zolotniks (1896-1908)
Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection