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A jewelled enamelled snuff box by Carl Fabergé,

St. Petersburg, pre-1896.

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created from a banded agate dinosaur’s gastrolith, mounted in silver gilt, its hinged lid enamelled translucent pink over a sunburst guillochage, topped with rocaille and floral trails, the scrolled thumbpiece set with diamonds.

Gastroliths, are stones once swallowed by dinosaurs and held in their gizzards to grind food, to aid digestion. Over time the jagged exterior of the agate geode has been worn and rounded by rubbing against other stones in the dinosaur’s gizzard. Fabergé has left the outside of the gastrolith in its found state, celebrating it’s past function. The interior has been gently hollowed and polished to show it’s banding.

Chief Workmaster: Michael Perchin,
St. Petersburg, pre-1896.
7cm across.

Provenance

Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna, sister of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
Wartski
Sotheby’s, Geneva, 15th November 1990, lot 440.
Private Collection.

The box was included in an exhibition of the Imperial Family’s Fabergé collection held in the Von Dervis Mansion on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg in March, 1902. It was shown in the vitrine of works belonging to Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna.

 

Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna’ s vitrine in the Von Dervis Mansion exhibition

 

This is the only know use of a gastrolith by Fabergé. The choice of such an unusual stone reflects his restless imagination. He continually sought new materials to work with, striving to reveal the artistic potential and stories within them.