The Color of Night
The Amber Room
The Amber Room is a series of large wall panels inlaid with several tons of masterfully carved high quality amber, long wall mirrors and four Florentine mosaics. The amber, which covered three walls, is arranged in three tiers. The central tier consists of eight large, symmetrical vertical panels. Four contain pictures made from semiprecious stones such as quartz, jasmine, jade and onyx, depicting the five senses. Mirrored pilasters occupy the distance between the large panels. The lower tier of the room is covered in square amber panels. One of the corners contains a small amber table. The room’s furnishings consist of inlaid wood commodes of Russian origin and a vase of Chinese porcelain.
In addition, one of the most valuable collections of amber objects created in the 17th and 18th centuries is housed in the room’s glass-covered display cases.
Begun in 1701 at the behest of Frederick I of Prussia, the Amber Room was intended as a testament to the king’s power and prestige. At that time, amber was a new material with which to work for decorative purposes and its mystical healing properties were well known to Frederick. He hoped to have his master artisans produce a private sanctum that might help him fight the infirmities of old age.
Unfortunately, insufficient quantities of amber existed to complete the room before Frederick I died in 1713. His son and heir, Frederick Wilhelm I, had no interest in the Amber Room (and may not have known of its occult properties). As a show of diplomatic goodwill, Frederick Wilhelm gave the room to Peter the Great, tsar of Russia in 1716. It is unclear whether Peter or any subsequent tsar understood the power of the Amber Room, although Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin’s interest in the room suggests that some knew its true nature. It is almost certain that Josef Stalin was aware of the room’s purpose and used it to keep himself healthy.
During World War II, Heinrich Himmler wished to obtain the room for himself and saw to it that it was seized during Operation Barbarossa, despite the Soviets’ attempts to hide its location. The Amber Room was taken back to Konigsberg, where it remained until the British and Soviets bombed the city. While many believed the Amber Room was destroyed in the bombardment, it survived, becoming one of the most sought after occult artifacts of the 20th century.