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Russia - The Amber Room

Amber is a unique substance often found on the shores of the Baltic Sea that is actually fossilized pine tree resin. Often tens of millions of years old, amber ranges in color from pale yellow to deep orange and is usually transparent. Often one can see insects, flowers and even feathers that have been surrounded by fresh resin and preserved down to the smallest detail. Amber can be said to be a window on a world millions of years old, from which very little remains to this day.

The rich golden color of amber and the way it quickly warms upon contact with the skin has made it prized for jewelry since prehistoric times. As well, static electricity created when amber is rubbed with fur gave it a magical aura. Stone age tribesmen traded amber for metal, food and weapons, and Baltic amber has been found in excavated graves thousands of miles from its origin. Amber was one of the primary goods offered by the early Viking and Russian traders who established many of the towns and cities of Russia. Soon amber was being used in artwork, the culmination of which were the huge amber-encrusted plates used to construct a magnificent “Amber Room” that were presented to Czar Peter the Great of Russia by the King of Prussia in the year 1717. In 1755, the finished Amber Room was completed at Tsarskoe Syolo, the summer palace of the Czars.

During the Second World War, German forces captured Tsarskoe Syolo and disassembled the Amber Room, moving the glittering panels to Krolewiec Castle in the city of Koenigsberg. Before the Amber Room could be reassembled, Russian forces attacked and captured Koenigsberg. The boxed treasures of the Amber room were never recovered, however, and it is feared that they were destroyed in the fierce fire that engulfed Krolewiec Castle. All we have today to attest to the magnificence of the Amber Room are photographs taken shortly before the war at Tsarskoe Syolo.


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