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In 1885 Czar Alexander III presented his wife, Marie, with a spectacularly crafted Easter egg. Over the next three decades, its creator, Carl Fabergé, made 49 more such eggs filled with jeweled surprises and exquisitely detailed paintings for the czar's family. Faber (Stradivari's Genius), former managing director of his family's firm, Faber & Faber, describes the eggs in loving, mouthwatering detail, bolstering his claim that the French-born jeweler led the Russian aristocracy to appreciate fine jewelry design over sheer gem size. Fabergé's influence also spread westward. In England, Marie's sister, Queen Alexandra, also developed a passion for Fabergé. Many of the eggs wound up in the United States after the canny businessman Armand Hammer made a deal with the Soviets to buy nearly one-third of them. Eventual owners included Egypt's King Farouk and cereal heiress Marjorie Meriweather Post. Faber frustratingly devotes far more ink to Romanov history and the precious eggs' twisted paths after leaving Russia than he does to the man who designed them. But the details he does provide-such as Hammer's unscrupulous dealings-make for a tantalizing read. 16 pages of color photos. (Oct. 7)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.