Carl Fabergé produced a number of automata, often as surprises within his Imperial Easter Eggs. The first record of a Fabergé elephant “surprise” was the Diamond Trellis Egg made in 1892. In 1929, this mechanical elephant was presented in a wooden box as a Christmas gift to King George V by his family.

The elephant is made of silver and its tusks made of ivory. The elephant’s eyes are set with cabochon rubies and its forehead is set with a rose-cut diamond. An enamelled mahout is seated on the elephant. The elephant’s harness is decorated with gold, guilloché enamel and rose-cut diamonds. One rose-cut diamond covers the keyhole. When the key-wound mechanism is released, the elephant lumbers forward, shifting its weight from one side to the other and all the while swinging its head and tail.

According to a note kept in the original silk-velvet lined Fabergé box, “To wind up the elephant push up the third diamond on the left side of the saddle. To start it release the gold spring underneath the elephant.” This video shows the elephant in motion:

Photos with permission Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

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