Amber Room: 'GMA's' First Stop on Mystery Tour

The Russian government embarked on the painstaking re-construction in 1979, and finally finished it in 2003, with help from German donations, re-opening the room for the city's 300th birthday.

Those who visit the new Amber Room say it feels like stepping inside a life-size jewelry box.

There seems to be no end to the spectacular detail, with every inch covered in scallops, garlands and cherubs.

Re-Creating Magic

Many, who believe that amber heals, describe a feeling of light and heat coming from the walls. In fact, the tsars and tsarinas, and their guests who spent time in the Amber Room, all swore they felt an energy field.

A thin layer of gold foil, hanging behind the translucent amber panels, radiates a golden luminance. The room sparkles brilliantly in both daylight and candle light, just as it would have in the 18th century, filled with 500 candles.

Just re-creating these effects was practically a feat of magic.

Thousands of individual slivers in 20 hues, carved to perfection, including the monogram of King Frederick the First of Prussia, and the coat of arms of the Russian Empire, decorate the walls.

To do all this, craftsmen were retrained in artistic techniques, lost for centuries. For example, artisans spent 10 years trying to recover the most basic techniques used in the original constructionn — 230 experiments on just glues, alone.

They worked from old black and white photographs, analyzing them in terms of shades.

Photographs taken before the war guided the re-construction.

In the room's centerpiece are copies of four intricate Florentine mosaics that adorned the walls in extravagant amber frames. One of these is the original, stolen from the Amber Room crates during the war, discovered and returned in 2002. The long-laboring artisans were ecstatic to find their copy almost exactly matched!

One More Mystery

As the Nazis advanced on Russia, the museum workers, charged with protecting the room, failed to do so.

Were they worried the amber was too fragile to move, or did they think it would incur the wrath of Stalin if it stayed?

All we know is that they covered the walls in cotton and paper — a disguise the Nazis quickly saw through.

The Nazis removed the panels, packed them up and took them away. They had the technology, the equipment, and all the resources, so they brought museum experts to Russia to remove the Amber Room in the middle of the war.

Tourist Attraction

Today, thousands of visitors flock to the palace every year.

The floor, a mix of richly colored wood, inlaid in an intricate pattern, fit for royalty, needs to be protected, so, visitors to the museum have to don little booties, similar to those a surgeon wears.

For more about the Amber Room's re-opening, click here.

For more on visiting St. Petersburg, click here to go to Fodor's travel Web site.

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