'Eggery' comes in many forms

'Eggery' comes in many forms
Reflected in the lighted hutch she keeps her decorated eggs in, Margaret Lex, of Stewartville, has been making and collecting the delicate creations since taking a class in the 1970s.

Eggs are a symbol of new life. They also have long been praised for the beauty of their form; many people enjoy adorning eggs with colors and jewels, or imitating the shape of the egg in works of art.

Decorated eggs date back to early-century burial sites in Italy and Greece. Egg collectors today join in the ancient tradition of decorating eggs, and often seek decorated eggs or egg-shaped jewelry boxes made of precious metals and embellished with gems. According to Rosemary Disney, author of "The Splendid Art of Decorating Eggs," the art of decorating eggs is known as "eggery."

Eggery collector Margaret Lex, of Stewartville, started her collection in 1973, after she decorated her first egg in a class.

"We were instructed on how to cut a vertical, five-door, bottom-hinged goose egg," Lex says. "Then the egg was painted in Wedgwood blue and warm brown on the outside, and a gold interior. The hinged doors open to reveal a jeweled fountain.

"This egg is unique as the center post supports the design of the egg; fish line enables doors to be opened and shut in unison."


The variety of natural eggs makes them a tempting collectible. (It's important to remember, however, that collecting bird eggs is restricted by federal law. For more information, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .)

In her collection, Lex has 20 various decorated eggs, including an ostrich egg with a working clock on the outside of it that Lex made herself.

She also has an ostrich egg with a Victorian screen print on the outside. It's lined with velvet and contains a music box.

"I also have goose and turkey eggs," Lex says, "and nine eggs decorated and given to us as gifts, such as for our silver wedding anniversary, and a most-awesome personalized golden ostrich egg for our 50th wedding anniversary."

On the road

Collectors often share interest in finding items on vacations to save as souvenirs.

"I purchased two exceptionally detailed, beautifully hand-painted eggs from China while vacationing in Hawaii in 1993," Lex says. "I also have several undecorated ostrich eggs and one emu egg from South Africa gifted to me by a friend."

There are several different traditional forms of eggery, but the most familiar kind of decorated eggs are the colored Easter variety from chickens, ducks or geese.


Going back in history, some designers used an art form called "pysanky," a method that originated in Ukraine, to decorate eggs. The method involves using wax and liquid dye to produce elaborate designs. This technique was brought to the United States by immigrants, along with their pysanky eggs that were family heirlooms.

Russian Imperial eggs, another sought-after collectible, are elaborately decorated eggs that when opened, reveal artistic scenery inside created by skilled craftsmen.

Wooden egg dolls are also collectible. Traditional Russian egg dolls are rare, but similar toys made around the 1950s are not. Modern versions of these are sold today in toy and gift shops.

Favorite finds

When it comes to starting or adding to your egg collection, collect those that you really like.

Keep in mind that design and detail can influence the price of an egg, Lex says. At the retail level, decorated goose eggs can be purchased for less than $100, and decorated ostrich eggs start at about $250.

Authentic Faberge eggs may cost thousands of dollars.

It's also important to remember that some of these collectible items must be handled with care. Old Easter eggs are fragile and must be picked up between balls of cotton because of the fine workmanship that went into creating them.


"Collectors appreciate fine workmanship — attention to design and neatness," Lex says. "With proper care, decorated eggs will last indefinitely and become heirlooms."

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