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    UNIQUE FABERGE COLLECTION RETURNS TO RUSSIA

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    LONDON, February 5 (RIA Novosti) - A unique collection of Faberge jewelry purchased by Russian Viktor Vekselberg at Sotheby's will be taken to Russia by April 1, Andrei Ruzhnikov, an expert in Russian art, told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

    Ruzhnikov was involved in the talks, which resulted in this deal. In his words, the deal was not made at once. "At first, the Forbes family, the owners of the rarities, refused to negotiate referring to their contract with Sotheby's," the expert said.

    Ruzhnikov did not give the price of the collection. "The price was just for both sides and corresponded with the real value of the collection," he noted.

    "Sotheby's gave a maximal auction valuation for such a collection. If at previous auctions the highest price of one Faberge Easter egg was 8 million dollars, now some of them cost 15-23 million dollars," Ruzhnikov said.

    News came on Wednesday that Viktor Vekselberg, the chairman of the board of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), purchased the world's largest private collection of Faberge jewelry at Sotheby's. The collection formerly belonged to the Forbes family, American media tycoons.

    The collection of 180 articles including nine Easter eggs created by the famous jeweler Karl Faberge by the order of the Russian royal family was to be sold by auction at Sotheby's on April 20-21 at the original price of 90 million dollars. However, Mr. Vekselberg made "a remarkable proposal", said Sotheby's head Bill Ruprecht.

    "At first, Sotheby's representatives were not enthusiastic about our price and the auction denied our request saying that the Forbes family would not agree to this price. However, the second proposal was accepted," Ruzhnikov said.

    According to him, two weeks passed from Vekselberg's decision to find out the possibility to buy the collection till Sotheby's consent.

    Before the collection goes to Russia, Sotheby's will exhibit it in New York, the expert noted.

    "Farewell to Faberge eggs!" said many American experts and collectors.

    The collection contains the legendary coronation egg, which Emperor Nicholas II presented to his spouse Alexandra in honor of his ascension to the throne in 1897. The egg costs 18-24 million dollars.

    "We knew that we should consider the return of the imperial Faberge Easter eggs to Russia with all earnestness. This turn of affairs was unforeseen and unusual," said Bill Ruprecht.

    "Knowing that the Forbes family was going to sell the collection, I understood that it was my unique chance to bring back one of Russia's greatest treasures. I consider it an honor to make this precious collection available to Russians," said Viktor Vekselberg.

    The Forbes gallery in New York contained nine out of 42 existing precious Easter eggs created by Karl Faberge in 1885-1916. The largest collection of ten Faberge Easter eggs is kept in the Moscow Kremlin.

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