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The Mysterious History of the Amber Room: Part 1

The Amber Room was a magnificent set of panels that, when displayed, decorated an entire chamber (more than 55 square meters). The panels were constructed of amber, gold leaf, and mirrors. If old photographs do it justice, walking into the Amber Room conveyed an overwhelming sense of dazzle and awe. With enough shimmering gold and swirling amber to fill an entire chamber, the Amber Room was widely considered to be the Eighth Wonder of The World. Unfortunately, this great wonder was lost at the end of World War II.

Before the war, the Amber Room was the subject of much esteem. Its construction began in 1701 under order of the first Prussian King, Friedrich I. It took master craftsmen more than 10 years to complete. In 1716, the king’s son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, gave the Amber Room as a gift to Peter the Great – Tsar of Russia. With that, the Amber Room became a part of St. Petersburg Palace where it was expanded and added to over several years.

Then, the Nazis marched on Leningrad in 1941. The Russians tried to disassemble the room and move it to safety, but there wasn’t enough time. Amber is a very delicate material; if not properly cared for it will quickly crumble and decay. When the Russians started moving the 200+ year-old Amber Room, several of the brittle amber panels began to break upon handling. Unable to move the room, they attempted to disguise it with ordinary wallpaper (a plan similar to the one used on the Golden Buddha statue which was covered in plaster to disguise it during war time). Unfortunately, the Amber Room was a world-famous treasure, and the Germans knew just where to look. It was then that the fate of the Amber Room took an unfortunate and mysterious turn – to be explored in our next blog post.

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