Counterfeit eggs? Faberge eggs that is

We are all familiar with the news that products are counterfeited by gangs around the world; clothes, perfumes, DVDs and pharmaceuticals are the most common targets. However, recent seizures in France indicate that an enterprising group has been busy counterfeiting Faberge eggs.

Faberge eggs were made by artisan jeweler Peter Carl Faberge containing jewels, enamel and precious metals at the behest of Russian Emperors Alexander III and Nicolas II. The Faberge eggs were given to the wives of the Emperors as presents for Easter. Each egg was individual and the product of years of craftsmanship.

According to Faberge, there are only forty two genuine eggs in existence today. So in December 2010, it was skeptical French customs officers who examined a consignment of 354 supposedly Faberge eggs being imported from Russia. Though the eggs appeared to be of good quality and had a stamp on the boxes showing a two-headed eagle, the symbol of the imperial crown of Russia, it was hard to believe that the eggs were genuine.

It is believed that the eggs were intended for sale in the markets and stores of Paris either as an alternative item for small time collectors or else trying to pass off as the genuine article. Faberge produced many other previous items such as trinkets, picture frames and medallions which are often counterfeited and sold to unsuspecting members of the public [see the site KFaberge].

In 2000, a Faberge aficionado found that his ‘£10m egg’ was actually a fake after he lent it to a museum and it sustained some damage. The egg was in fact a copy, worth around £100,000, roughly twice its original price at auction. The collector bought the copy the egg at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva in 1991for just £52,000, apparently unaware at what a bargain he was getting if his egg was real.

Counterfeiting of branded items is considered a growing threat to European manufacturers who justify their higher prices by the investment in the brand. Officials report that Internet commerce has boosted counterfeiting as buyers are willing to shop around for an alternative to the high street stores. French customs officials have revealed from their records that in 1994 only 200,000 counterfeit articles were seized compared to over 7 million items seized in 2009.

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