NEW YORK (CNN) - The Forbes family has sold its fabled collection of Faberge Imperial Easter eggs to a Russian businessman, months before they were to be sold at auction, Sotheby's auction house said Wednesday.
The amount paid was not disclosed but Sotheby's had estimated the value of the eggs and other items in the collection at more than $90 million. The collection was originally scheduled for public auction in New York on April 20- 21.
It was sold to Victor Vekselberg, vice president of TNK-BP (Tyumen Oil Co.), a joint venture with British Petroleum.
Vekselberg said in a statement he plans to "make this collection available to the Russian Public," though no other details were disclosed.
According to Sotheby's press officer, Patricia Fox, Sotheby's negotiated the transaction on behalf of the Forbes family.
Highlights of the entire collection, including nine Imperial Eggs and 180 other Faberge objects collected by Forbes, will be on display in New York at a date to be announced shortly before their return to Russia.
The eggs, considered a standard for rare treasures, were first commissioned by Russian Tsar Alexander III from the House of Faberge in 1885 as Easter gifts for his wife, Maria Feodorovna. The tradition continued for 30 years in the Romanov imperial family.
Only fifty Imperial Eggs are known to have been created by the House of Faberge. The Forbes Faberge collection also includes cigarette cases, photograph frames, and precious stone carvings.
"We were very excited at the prospect of an extraordinary auction," said Bill Ruprecht, president and CEO of Sotheby's Holdings, Inc. "But we knew that this remarkable offer and the return of the Faberge Imperial Eggs to Russia had to be taken seriously."
According to Vekselberg, the return of the eggs marks a milestone for the Russian people. "The Faberge Egg Collection represents perhaps the most significant example of our cultural heritage," he said. "This was a once in a lifetime chance to give back to my country one of its most revered treasures."