The Amber Room
Weighing several tons, it was largest work of art ever made out of amber, and was the first time amber was used to decorate interiors. Over the years, the Amber Room gained fame as the Eighth Wonder of the World.
The story of the Amber Room begins in the early 18th century, when one of the rooms of the Royal Palace in Berlin was redecorated entirely in amber during the reign of Prussian King Frederick I. Work on the Amber Room started in 1701 and continued for twelve years. By that time, the old king had died and Frederick Wilhelm I ascended the throne.
In 1716, Frederick Wilhelm I presented the Amber Room to Tsar Peter the Great as a symbol of the strategic alliance between the two countries. It was then dismantled and shipped to St. Petersburg. The amber was later used to decorate of one of the rooms of the citys Winter Palace, then transferred to the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo and reworked into a study room. To adjust to the larger room size, four Florentine mosaics, mirrored columns and additional panels painted in "mock amber (later to be replaced by real amber) were added. The mosaics were made of semiprecious stones depicting allegories of the five senses. By 1770 the Amber Room had gained its final form. It was to remain in Tsarskoe Selo for the next 200 years.
At the onset of World War II, the decision was made not to evacuate the delicate Amber Room and instead to preserve it disguised by wallpaper. The plan was unsuccessful. In 1941, German troops dismantled the Amber Room and sent it to Königsberg, where it was on display in the Königsberg Museum. In the spring of 1945, the Room was once again taken apart and transferred in crates to the cellar of the Königsberg castle to protect it from destruction. The Amber Room has not been seen since, though reports indicate it may have survived the war.
Different theories concerning the Rooms fate exist:
It was destroyed by the Allied bombing of Königsberg in 1945
It lies buried in a mine in Saxony
It sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea, after the liner transporting it had been hit by a torpedo
It is still in Königsberg (presently Kaliningrad)
It lies hidden in a different location
Since then, exhaustive searches conducted in Kaliningrad, Austria, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and even the Baltic Sea have met with little success. A chest of drawers and one of the mosaics surfaced in the 1990s, but the rest of the immense treasure remains undiscovered.
In 1979, Moscow felled the decision to reconstruct the Amber Room. Work on the replica at the Catharine Palace started in the 1980s. Based on old photographs and using old workmanship techniques, a team of 50 craftsmen has been carefully recreating the Amber Room - consisting of more than 500.000 pieces! So far, the project has cost US $7.5 million and involved 5 tons of supplies. It is due to be finished in May 2003, certain to be the main attraction at festivities marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of St. Petersburg.