Last Updated on 7th March 2017 by Sophie Nadeau
I was probably only around 13 years old when I first heard about the lost Amber Room. A room covered in the intricately carved fossilised golden resin, embellished with precious gems, everything dripping with gold. As a child, it sounded like something out of a fairytale castle. To be honest, it still does, right?
Amber is fossilised tree resin that has taken millions of years to form. The World’s largest resource of Amber lies near the now abandoned city of Koenigsberg, in what is now Russia. However, the stuff has turned up in all sorts of unusual places; King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt being one such example.
The lost Amber room
Often referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, construction of the original room first took place in Prussia in the early 1700s .To top things off, the lost amber room was accentuated heavily with mirrors on each wall, giving the appearance of an even larger space. Not a bad place to host guests, eh!
Although originally intended to be one of the key features of Frederick, the first king of Prussia’s palace in Charlottenburg palace, it didn’t remain there for long.
Admiration from Peter the Great of Russia meant that in 1716, the amber room was gifted to the Russian Tsar as a mark of friendship between the two empires and to forge an alliance against Sweden. In 1717, the room was further expanded and the resulting room comprised of a whopping 6 tonnes of amber.
The amber room in 1917:
Loss of the Amber Room
At some point during WWII, the amber room was lost and has never resurfaced. It is just one of hundreds- if not thousands– of artworks that were wrongfully looted during the war and have simply disappeared.
Although attempts to move the amber room were implemented at the beginning of WWII, the centuries old amber was deemed too fragile to move and so hidden behind some wallpaper. However the poorly hidden room was soon discovered in 1941 after the German invasion of Russia. Shortly after, the room was dismantled and taken away. It had been looted by a Nazi German army group and was taken to Königsberg (a 13th century port city lying on the banks of the baltic sea that was abandoned following heavy attacks and bombing during WWII).
Hitler himself had intended to build a giant museum in his home town in Germany, displaying some of the greatest treasures of mankind; the amber room was intended to be one of the museum’s stars. In 1943, Koenigsberg, having been used as Nazi stronghold and where the amber room was stored for two short years, fell. The room was once again dismantled and this time, what happened to the lost amber room next remains a mystery to this day.
Today, the room would be valued at over $400 million. No wonder treasure hunters and collectors alike have been searching for it for decades!
Although there are countless theories surrounding what happened to the Amber Room, here are the most probable ones:
The amber room was dismantled
The most probable theory is that the amber room was dismantled decades ago for its’ valuable pieces of amber to be sold off. In 1997, a mosaic from the original room was put up for sale, giving further evidence to support this theory.
The amber room was destroyed
It is pretty feasible that the amber room was destroyed, either by time, allied bombing, accidentally or a combination of all three. As has been shown by the fact that the amber room wasn’t moved in the first place due to the brittleness of the amber, it’s unfortunately pretty likely that the room ceases to exist today.
In a private collection
It could well be possible that the lost amber collection isn’t lost at all but is sat in a private collection, behind great walls of a mansion and admired by an elite few.
The amber room is still lost and waiting to be found
My favourite theory is unfortunately the most unlikely. Although countless experts and treasure hunters alike, through the ages, have claimed to have finally found the lost amber room, each search turns out negative results.
It is widely believed by many of these ‘treasure hunters‘ that the amber room was on a train departing from Koenigsberg that was blown off course and fell down, deep into an abandoned mine shaft. Abandoned mine shafts are now where the majority of searches for the room now take place.
In 2003, the room was recreated with donations from Germany and the skilled craftsmanship of Russian amber carvers. Black and white photographs of the original room were used as a reference point. The monumental effort (that took no less than 24 years) is that much more impressive when you look at the detailing of the amber carving- once considered a lost art form.
To this day, many art historians, consultants and treasure hunters hope for its resurface, or at the very leas to find out what happened to the lost amber room. I, for one, would really love to find out!
(Cover photo source)