A Faberge gold seal, featuring a lead shot that is said to have launched the Russian revolution, is being offered by a London dealer at the TEFAF art fair in Maastrict, which runs from March 15-24.
The seal is mounted on the piece of lead shot that almost killed Tsar Nicholas II in a failed assassination attempt, which would later launch the Russian Revolution. Produced by Faberge at the request of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaevic, it is expected to sell for $500,000.
The grapeshot ball narrowly missed the tsar in St Petersburg in 1905, after one of the cannon included in a ceremonial salute fired toward the palace. Convinced that the incident was an attempt on his life, it was an event that the tsar would not forget easily.
A few weeks later on Sunday, January 22, the Russian Imperial Guard killed almost 100 innocent people during a demonstration by workers, earning the tsar the nickname of Nicholas the Bloody. Russia had already seen social and political turmoil, but the killings on "Bloody Sunday" led to a decade of unrest that would culminate in the revolution of 1917 and eventually, the massacre of the Romanov family.
The seal itself is engraved in Cyrillic: "Recalling the salute of 6th January 1905", with the lead shot mounted on a burnished red gold trumpet-shaped hand seal entwined with green gold trails of laurels. It was produced by Faberge's chief work master Henrik Wigstrom and has been consigned from the collection of Prince Michael Cantacuzene, a former Russian general.
As Russia's middle class continues to expand following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian imperial items are becoming increasingly sought-after by the country's collectors. In April, a pair of Russian imperial vases discovered in an Oklahoma mansion will sell with a $1m-1.5m estimate.