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Monday, April 20, 2015

Modern Day ‘Fabergé Egg’ Containing Lunar Bible Fragment Goes On Sale At Bonhams

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

I went to the preview of Bonhams Space History Sale to view an Omega timepiece and discovered something else that was interesting and unusual. 

It is being a called a Fabergé Egg but it bears no resemblance to the 50 bejeweled Imperial Easter eggs created from approximately 1885 to 1917 by Peter Carl Fabergé for the Russian tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. 

Cassandra Hatton, Bonhams director of History of Science & Technology, explains that the egg was made by a company that owned the Fabergé name at the time. 

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

From as early as 1937 until 2007, the Fabergé brand was bought and sold and under disputed ownership by several entities, including the Fabergé family. From 1964 till 1984 the company was known as Faberge Inc., owned by George Barrie. This is the most likely source of the modern egg.

So it isn't a Fabergé Egg. It is a jeweled egg made by Fabergé.

What’s encased in the silver and gilt metal 3.5 x 1.5 inch egg is what the auction house is selling: A microfiche version of a 50-page fragment from the King James Bible, taken to the moon as part of the Apollo 14 mission. 

It was a part of 100 complete copies of the Bible in microfiche that were taken on the nine-day lunar mission that launched January 31, 1971. However, for some reason only 32 fragments have been officially flight-certified to date, making this “an extremely rare and important religious artifact,” according to the auction house.

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

How this particular 50-page fragment became encased in what is being called a Fabergé egg is unclear. 

This Faberge Inc. modern egg is decorated in gilt bows and swags with three agate cabochons embedded in the base, topped with an amethyst, according to the auction house. The base is felt lined and stenciled with the name “Fabergé” in gilt. The egg opens to display the microfiche Bible fragment in a transparent plastic square on a white pearl background. It is housed in a velvet box with the Fabergé name and with a brass plaque reading, “Apollo 14 Lunar Surface Bible Text Fragment – 50 Pages,” with a provenance letter signed by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell and James W. Stout.

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Mitchell was entrusted with taking the bibles to the moon on the Lunar Module. Rev. Stout founded the Apollo Prayer League in1967 with the goal of landing the first Bibles on the Moon. 

He succeeded. 

The Bonhams Space History sale is being held Tuesday. The estimate for the Bible and jeweled container is $10,000 - $15,000.

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