Lady Paget (1853-1919), née Mary 'Minnie' Fiske Stevens, was the daughter of a wealthy Boston hotelier. The family, who had moved to New York in the 1860s, entertained Edward, Prince of Wales at their Fifth Avenue hotel when he visited America. Upon her father's death, the family took up residence in England and the Prince of Wales reciprocated their hospitality, entertaining Minnie and her mother at Sandringham and Marlborough House. Following her marriage to Sir Arthur Henry Paget, Minnie became an early patron of Fabergé in London, organising numerous charitable exhibitions which were well attended by her Anglo-American contemporaries.
A similar gold and enamel-mounted rhodonite box, originally purchased by Lady Paget from Fabergé's London branch on 12 December 1911 for £35, was sold at Christie's, New York, 20 October 1997, lot 55.
Purpurine is created by crystallising lead chromate in a glass matrix, a technique first discovered in Italy during the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, a craftsman at the Imperial Glass Factory named Petouchov rediscovered the method for creating purpurine. Fabergé made extensive and exclusive use of the material, especially in animal figures. It was also used for the base of the Romanov Tercentenary Easter Egg. The present box was created from an exceptionally large and rare piece of purpurine. It showcases the intensity and depth of colour that characterize the material and is by far the largest purpurine object to appear at auction for the last three decades.