MI6 investigates the back-plot to 1983's Octopussy and the story of Carl Fabergé's famous jewel-encrusted eggs...

The Fabergé Connection
26th December 2007

Carl Gustavovich Fabergé was born on 30 May 1846 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fabergé was prominent jeweler and metalwork artist, best known for the creation of the Fabergé Eggs - a range of highly ornate, near-priceless artworks in the tradition of Easter Eggs. This highly valued items were also used as a plot device in the 1983 James Bond film "Octopussy".

After higher education, Fabergé and younger brother Agaton took over the family business in 1872. With a name in the trade the brothers quickly impressed and were appointed official jewelers of the court. The first of the Fabergé eggs was commissioned by Tsar Alexander III as an Easter gift for his wife. This was far simpler than those that would be created over the later years - a white gold casing that opened to a golden yoke, on which a hen perched.

Between 1885 and 1917, Fabergé and his skilled team of workers crafted 57 eggs. Each Easter, Fabergé provided his highly decorative works to the Russian royals. Each egg is hand carved from a different precious metal and gilded with a variety of gems and each more spectacular and lavish than the previous.


Above: The first of 57 eggs crafted by Fabergé

Long after his death in 1920, Fabergé's amazing artwork collides with legendary pop-icon, James Bond. The plot idea for the Fabergé auction originates from Ian Fleming's 1963 short story, "Property of a Lady".. Published in "Octopussy and the Living Daylights" (1966), Fleming's hard-warn spy is on the tail of a KGB officer who bids over the mark for an already costly Fabergé Egg in order to pay off a hired hit-man.

Above: Kamal Kahn and Magda in the Sotheby's auction house in 1983's Octopussy...

The title of the story, and indeed the plot, had long been speculated to become the premise for the next in the long line of Bond pictures after "For Your Eyes Only" wrapped. Yet it wasn't until Michael Wilson, screenwriter of 1983's "Octopussy", snapped up the idea that Fabergé and Bond crossed paths on screen. While the title "The Property Of A Lady" is yet to be used, the movie version of Octopussy weaves in the plot of the short story as well as several of Fleming's other works. In the film adaptation 007 bids on the Fabergé Egg to force the villainous Kamal Kahn into bidding higher to retrieve what believes is a genuine, priceless Fabergé Egg. In reality, 007 swaps the egg with a fake at the auction house, poaching the real egg and letting Kahn go away with a worthless trinket.

Bond travels to India in pursuit of Kahn and his forgers, using the real Fabergé (which Kamal thinks is the fake) as a bargaining chip. The forgers reclaim the egg from 007, thanks to the feminine charm of Magda, and Bond is captured. Kahn's counterpart, a Russian General Orlov, seals the fate of the cursed Egg, crushing it with the butt of his gun.

The prop egg used by the 1983 filmmakers is not a true Fabergé design, but is in the style of the Coronation Egg, which Fabergé gifted to Tsar Nicholas in 1897. Real Fabergé Eggs are priceless and safely kept in museums, art galleries or private collections.

However, trinkets and model reproductions can be purchased in the form of ornaments or jewelry for between 60 and 300 USD. The James Bond prop has also been replicated for sale and from time to time copies appear on the internet, ranging between 300 and 600 USD - the buying power of 007 is clear in this case!

Today the Fabergé Egg is most certainly an icon of both fine art and jewelry and synonymous with high-class luxury and the finest detail of style. The Fabergé family lends its name to a range of cosmetics and perfumes. In October 2007 it was announced that the Fabergé brand was set to be reformed by 2008 to reflect the family interests and heritage.


Above: The most famous Fabergé creation, the 1897 Coronation Egg.

In the News
The Riverfront Arts Centre in Delaware was recently host to the most comprehensive Fabergé exhibition ever - collecting works from private collections across the world. The Rothschild egg of 1902 recently made the news when it was sold for a world record breaking £8.9 million. It was brought at Christie's auction house by a private art collector. The Christie's auction was the first time the Rothschild egg had been on display in public since its creation.

The Complete Fabergé Imperial Collection

1885: Hen
1886: Hen with Sapphire Pendant
1887: Blue Serpent Clock
1888: Cherub with Chariot
1889: Necessaire
1890: Danish Palaces & Spring Flowers

  1891: Memory of Azov
1892: Diamond Trellis
1893: Caucasus
1894: Renaissance & Resurrection egg
1895: Rosebud & Twelve Monograms
1896: Revolving Miniatures & Alexander III Portraits


1897: Coronation & Doweger
1898: Lilies of the Valley
1898: Mauve Enamel
1899: Bouquet of Lilies Clock & Pansy
1900: Trans-Siberian Railway & Cockerel
1901: Basket of Wild Flowers & Gatchina Palace
1902: Clover Leaf & Empire Nephrite
1903: Peter the Great & Danish Jubilee
1906: Moscow Kremlin & Swan
1907: Rose Trellis & Cradle with Garlands
1908: Alexander Palace & Peacock
1909: Standart Yacht & Alexander II Commemorative
1910: Colonnade & Alexander III Equestrian
1911: Fifteenth Anniversary & Bay Tree
1912: Czarevich & Napoleonic
1913: Romanov Tercentenary & Winter
1914: Mosaic & Grisaille
1915: Red Cross with Triptych & Red Cross with Imperial Portraits
1916: Steel Military & Order of St. George
1917: Constellation & Karelian Birch

Carl Gustavovich Fabergé passed away on the 24th of September 1920 in Switzerland, leaving the business to his sons Eugené and Alexander. Carl was laid to rest next to his late wife in the Cimetière du Grand Jas in Cannes, France.

Related Articles
Octopussy & The Living Daylights
Octopussy - Production Notes
Octopussy - Movie Coverage