21 Ultimate Gifts: Chess Unmatched

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Carl Fabergé’s workshop is renowned for creating splendid objets d’art, not chess sets. Indeed, the set offered to Robb Report readers was long believed to be the only one produced by Fabergé. (What might be a second Fabergé set was recently discovered.) Designed by the jeweler and built by Karl Gustav Hjalmar Armfelt, this set, which probably was finished circa 1905, was a gift to Gen. Alexei Kouropatkin, Russia’s commander-in-chief during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and 1905.

The squares on the 25-by-25-inch board are made from Siberian jade and pale apricot serpentine that have been mounted in a silver frame. A Russian inscription along the sides of the frame reads: “To warmly beloved and dear Commander General Adjutant Alexei Nikolaievitch Kouropatkin in memory of Manchuria 1904–1905 from those devoted and grateful to him.” The names of the 15 generals who, along with the Czar, placed the commission with Fabergé are also inscribed on the frame. It is believed that the gift was intended to lift the spirits of Gen. Kouropatkin, a chess champion who fell into a depression following a war in which his forces lost all of the major battles.

The set, featured in the Art of Chess exhibit held in 2003 at the Gilbert Collection museum in London, should have improved the general’s mood. The pieces, measuring from 1.7 inches tall (the pawns) to 3.14 inches tall (the kings), are carved from tawny aventurine quartz and gray Kalagan jasper and are accented with silver.

The set is in the possession of a private collector who has authorized Elizabeth Gann, a dealer in antique and modern chess sets, to offer it exclusively through Robb Report. 


Price: $12.5 million. Contact: Elizabeth Gann Chess, 631.661.1167, elizabethgann@aol.com.


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