The Amber Room, which was once the crown jewel of the Romanov’s luxurious summer residence, was adorned from floor to ceiling with amber, diamonds, and gold leaf. The room stunned visitors, who dubbed it the “eighth wonder of the world.” It is estimated to be valued between $142 million and $500 million in today’s currencies.
After Nazi forces ransacked the Amber Room during World War II, it vanished. The Nazis claimed ownership of the room because it was created in Germany for Prussian Emperor Frederick I and afterwards donated to Peter the Great of Russ*ia.
When they returned it to Germany, however, all records of its whereabouts vanished. While some believe the valuable historic room was destroyed by Allied bombing, others believe the Nazis must have buried the amber worth millions of dollars. The amber room has remained undiscovered to this day.
The Amber Room Was Regarded As A Gift To Russia From Germany
Frederick I, Prussia’s first monarch, authorized the Amber Room’s construction in 1701. The room would be a symbol of Prussian opulence. The chamber was designed by sculptor Andreas Schlüter, and the delicate components were put together by Danish artisan Gottfried Wolfram.
The Baltic region has some of the world’s largest amber deposits. And amber, a petrified tree resin known as “Northern Gold,” became an emblem of Prussian wealth.
The Amber Room at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin was built in 1709, and royals from all across Europe were astonished by its cleverness. Kings have previously constructed halls adorned with gold and valuable stones. However, no one had ever used amber to create a glowing art installation.
The room was additionally decorated with mosaics of quartz, jasmine, jade, and onyx, in addition to the multicolored amber put onto gold leaf panels to make beautiful mosaics. The original Amber Room was valued at $500 million in 2016.
The chamber, however, would not be in Berlin for long. Frederick I died in 1712, and his son, Frederick William I, chose to give the beautiful work to the Russians in 1716 to honor their alliance against Sweden after Peter the Great praised it during a visit to the palace.
So, barely a few years after its completion, Prussian artisans dismantled the room and packaged a fortune’s worth of amber in 18 crates. The Russ*ians reproduced the exhibit in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace.
The Russ*ian Amber Room was expanded by skilled craftsmen.
The Romanovs gawked their magnificent surroundings. Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s daughter, moved the exhibit to the Catherine Palace outside of St. Petersburg, where the family spent their summers, in 1755. The Amber Room is one of the most beautiful rooms in the house.
The Romanovs commissioned an Italian designer to expand the Amber Room now that they were in a larger area. More amber was brought in by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, who created an even more stunning version of the room.
The room was roughly 180 square feet by the end of the 18th century. It was made out of six tons of amber, as well as other precious stones and gold leaf.
Catherine the Great held visitors in the Amber Room when she wished to impress them. Czar Alexander II also had his prizes on display in the room. Empress Elizabeth, on the other hand, used the room for quiet meditation.
The Romanovs lost control in Russia in 1917. New authorities came to power as a result of a revolution. Despite the fact that much of the Romanov fortune vanished, the Amber Room remained in the Catherine Palace until the Nazis invaded Russ*ia and seized the entire room.
How The Nazis Robbed The ‘Eighth Wonder Of The World
Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, commenced in 1941. The Eastern Front was overwhelmed with three million Nazi forces. They also stole a fortune worth of art, including the Amber Room.
Soviet officials attempted to salvage the amber as Nazis marched towards the Catherine Palace. However, when they attempted to dismantle the elaborate constructions, the amber collapsed.
This was due in part to the way the space was built by the craftsmen. They used petrified tree resin that had been heated and dipped in honey and linseed oil. The amber was then pressed into wood panels by craftspeople. The dry amber has become extremely delicate over the centuries.
In a panic, the administrators put up wallpaper to conceal the valuable amber. However, the lie was swiftly exposed by Nazi troopers. In a matter of hours, they dismantled the room and transported it to Königsberg Castle.
The Amber Room was proclaimed German by the Nazis. It was created for a German king by a German designer. It should also not be kept in Russ*ia.
Alfred Rohde, the director of the museum in Königsberg, was in charge of the objects. When the castle was threatened by Allied forces in late 1943, Rohde packed the amber away. The castle was then bombed in August 1944.
But was the Amber Room destroyed by the bomb? The Soviets searched the rubble for the treasure when they marched into Königsberg. Despite this, there was no trace of it.
So Has The Room Ever Been Found?
Since its disappearance in 1943, no one has been able to locate the Amber Room. Many treasure seekers have tried to find the whereabouts of this lost wealth since its disappearance, but none have been successful so far. So, what happened to the tens of thousands of dollars worth of amber?
According to one notion, the amber was destroyed by bombings and fires. In the Königsberg Castle dungeon, a Soviet scientist hired to investigate the lost items claimed to have discovered burnt evidence of the amber mosaics. However, many people refused to believe that explanation.
Then, in 1997, a hint appeared. At an auction in Germany, the son of a Nazi soldier attempted to sell a panel from the Amber Room. However, further inquiry revealed that the panel was a one-of-a-kind item, with his father stealing only the single mosaic when transferring the treasure from Russ*ia.
One eyewitness claimed to have seen Nazis loading crates onto the Wilhelm Gustloff, a transport ship. The Soviets sank the ship in the last months of the conflict. However, dives to the Wilhelm Gustloff’s wreckage have turned up no evidence.
According to another story, the Nazis slipped the crates out through tunnels beneath the castle. The amber could have been buried in underground salt mines, dumped to the bottom of a lagoon, or exported to another country.
Three amateur sleuths, 73-year-old homeopath Leonhard Blume, 67-year-old scientist Günter Eckardt, and 71-year-old georadar specialist Peter Lohr, thought they’d discovered the missing riches in 2017. They thought the legendary room was at Prince’s Cave, outside Dresden, in the Hartenstein highlands.
The cave is known to have been used by Nazi scientists, and Lohr told The Daily Mail in 2001 that the room was moved to an underground bunker there in 1945, according to a “reliable source.” They even discovered evidence of a big bunker in these hills, as well as a spot where steel ropes were used to pull containers to their destination.
However, when they looked into it, they came up empty-handed. No one else has discovered the Amber Room.
Even if they had discovered it, according to Alexander Shedrinsky, a conservator and biochemistry professor at New York University, it wouldn’t have been much to look at.
“If the Amber Room is concealed somewhere, it’s more likely in a wet mine,” he said, “which implies it’s nearly surely in a condition of ruin.”
“It was in bad form even before it was robbed, in need of restoration, and the amber parts were falling out.”
Inside The Reconstructed Romanov Treasure
The mystery of the Amber Room remains unsolved today, but one last notion claims that the Soviets covered up the room’s destruction. Königsberg, Germany, became Kaliningrad, Russia, after the war, and the Soviets razed the ruins of Königsberg Castle in 1968, making it impossible for anybody else to locate vestiges of the original room.
The Russians then opted to rebuild the entire room in 1979. The Russ*ian government finished its reconstruction of the Amber Room in 2004 using black and white images of the room and unearthing the trade secrets needed to replicate the multicolored amber of the room.
The $11 million replica commemorated St. Petersburg’s 300th anniversary. Ironically, when the organization in charge of restoring this landmark ran out of money in 2000, a German corporation raised the funding needed to complete the job.
As a result, a German-made artifact is given to the Russians, altered by Russians and Germans, stolen by the German army, and eventually reproduced by the Russians with the assistance of a German firm. The history of this work of art encapsulates the difficult relationship between these two major nations.
While tourists to St. Petersburg can see the new Amber Room, the old remains lost to history, at least for the time being — until the original Amber Room is discovered.
- Magazine, Smithsonian. “A Brief History of the Amber Room”. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2022-01-15
- Jess Blumberg (July 21, 2007). “A Brief History of the Amber Room”. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
- Marilyn Malara (April 23, 2016). “Historian claims to have struck gold at Nazi bunker”. UPI. Retrieved April 24, 2016.