What is the Amber Room?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Amber Room refers to a beautiful room created out of the prehistoric substance, amber, and almost countless numbers of jewels. It’s a favorite topic of many historians because it represents one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. The room was commissioned by King Frederick of Prussia in the 18th century, but the many craftsmen involved took much longer to complete the room than was hoped. Eight years after the commission, King Frederick was dead, and his successor, King Frederick William I, was indifferent to the beauty and craftsmanship of the numerous amber panels. As an act of diplomacy, Frederick William I gave the room in its entirety to Peter the Great of Russia.

Woman posing
Woman posing

The Russians took considerable time trying to decide where in Russia the room should be placed, and ultimately settled on placing the room in the Catherine Palace. The only problem with this choice was that the amber panels made in Prussia were smaller than the room’s dimensions, so artisans, and especially those skilled in mosaics were invited to work on the project creating more panels studded with stone. When finally completed and placed in the Catherine Palace, the Amber Room was said to have been like stepping into glowing gold.

Unfortunately, although the Amber Room graced the Catherine Palace until World War II, it was not to remain there forever. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union during WWII, attempts were made to try to remove the panels from the Catherine Palace, but they were unsuccessful. Germany took the Amber Room in its entirety, and exhibited it for a year at the Konigsberg Castle in 1942.

This is when the mystery of the room really gets conspiracy theorists and historians alike excited. The Allied forces bombed the area around Konigsberg Castle, and there are several different stories about what was done to “save” the room. Some accounts say that soldiers were given the orders to completely destroy the room, and others say that the room was secreted away by various soldiers of the Nazi Army. Both stories may have some truth. A few mosaic pieces have resurfaced over the years, but the bulk of the Amber Room has either been destroyed, or remains hidden or buried.

In recent times Russia embarked on a tremendous project, the reconstruction of the Amber Room, which is now placed in the Catherine Palace and open for visits from the public. As people gaze at the honeyed colors of the reconstruction, which is by all accounts quite like the original room, they still must wonder where the original Amber Room went. This is a mystery we may never fully know, but it has certainly been the subject for many authors, with numerous theories advanced on the hidden existence of the original.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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