"It looked just like a grenade": The Untold Story of the Rolls-Royce x Fabergé Imperial Egg
Let me take you back to 2018, when Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Fabergé partnered to create an exceptional egg called the “Spirit of Ecstasy”. Named after the iconic hood ornament that has adorned Rolls-Royce cars since 1911, it is the most complicated objet d’art in Fabergé’s modern-day history. Only the second egg to be deemed “Imperial Class” since 1917, it is styled in the same way as the original 50 Imperial Easter Eggs created by Peter Carl Fabergé himself.
As Fabergé’s business development and global sales director, I was responsible for transporting the “Spirit of Ecstasy” from our workmaster’s home in Kent, England to a remote part of Jackson Hole, in the US, for an extravagant launch party. From concept to completion it took more than two years to create the egg, and our workmaster had been working until 10pm the night before I was scheduled to collect it.
When I first saw the “Spirit of Ecstasy”, it took my breath away. The egg has an openworked design with an exterior of individual branches made of white gold. Inside is a sculpture made of 18-karat rose gold and frosted rock crystal.
Our workmaster hadn’t slept in days, maybe even weeks. I later found out that his wife had been threatening divorce, which he narrowly managed to escape by booking a romantic holiday for the very next day. He was emotional, while I was nervous and excited, but mostly terrified to have almost three years of his blood, sweat and tears in my sole care.
The next day, I boarded my flight for Wyoming. I almost forgot my hand luggage at the check-in counter because I was so focused on safeguarding the egg, which had been placed into a custom-made metal case. When I disembarked for my flight transfer in Denver, I hadn’t slept a wink and was preparing to go through security a second time.
I placed the metal case onto a baggage conveyor belt but it quickly came to an abrupt halt. Security officers began to converge and I assume it’s because they’re in disbelief at the egg, which they can see through the X-ray machine. I’m embarrassed, because a queue of travellers lining up to pass through security is getting longer and longer, but suddenly a stern-faced customs official barks at us: “We need to know whose box this is, now!”
I glance at the security monitor, which is now being carefully analysed by several terrified customs officials, and I realise that through the X-ray machine, the “Spirit of Ecstasy” looks just like a grenade! I immediately imagine the next day’s newspaper headline: “Woman jailed for smuggling weapons disguised as Fabergé egg.”
Now, anyone who is used to hand-carrying high-value goods knows you must never openly discuss the content of your freight. It’s hugely important, for insurance reasons, that you request to be taken to a private room, which is easier said than done when customs officials suspect you of carrying explosives.
“Sir,” I say to the scary-looking head honcho, who reaches for his gun holster as I approach, “I know this all looks dodgy but I can assure you I am not carrying any dangerous weapons.”
He becomes less guarded when he hears my British accent and agrees that I be led to an inspection room, albeit escorted by several armed officers. When we get inside, I shakily open the metal case. “Gentlemen,” I announce, “you are in the presence of a real Fabergé egg.” There are audible gasps and murmurs, followed by an onslaught of questions.
“Who is this for? Did you make it? How much does it cost? Does the Queen of England have one? Is this hers?” I carefully put the egg away, and suddenly feel faint. I imagine tripping and it smashing on the table. Scrambled egg, anyone?
As I leave, I hear one of the officers whisper, “I knew she was a royal. She has that look!”
Needless to say, I got the “Spirit of Ecstasy” to Wyoming unscathed, but I’ll tell you this: it took more than one glass of champagne to ease my nerves.
This is the third instalment of a series in which we ask jewellery experts to weigh in on industry trends, innovation and more. Josina von dem Bussche-Kessell is the global sales director at Fabergé
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