The history of Tsarskoye Selo Amber workshop is closely connected to that of the legendary Amber Chamber, the most beautiful and famous room of the Catherine Palace. It takes us back to the early 18th century, when panels with the precious gemstone mosaics were created for Friedrich I of Prussia and presented by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm I, to Peter I. Even before the panels were finished, they were surrounded by legends and mystery. The mystery kept staying around throughout the history of this unique amber interior.
Once in Russia, the panels decorated with fine amber mosaics became especial pride of the rulers. Peter I, Empresses Anna, Elizabeth and Catherine II, all took a great care of the Amber Study. A special amber workshop was established to maintain the exquisite and unique panels. In the 19th century alone a major restoration of the Amber panels was conducted 3 times: in 1833, 1865 and 1893. In the Soviet times the restoration was planned for 1941, but it never happened…
What is so special about amber mosaics? Why are the panels so unique? Why did they need maintenance works so frequently?
What is Amber?
It was not until fairly recently that the mankind has an answer this question. Strictly speaking, amber gemstone is not a stone. Throughout the history of human race, there’s been a lot of myths and legends around it and even miraculous powers and qualities were assigned to the “sun stone”. In the ancient times it was considered panacea, an all-heal remedy.
What is amber? Amber gemstone is actually petrified mineral resin of coniferous trees. It is very sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, that makes it extremely vulnerable and pieces decorated with it – very fragile.
Amber is probably the most unsuitable material for decorating the walls. Due to this, Catherine Palace now possesses a unique, one-of-a-kind room with gorgeous fine mosaic panels. Before it the biggest object adorned with amber gemstone were chessboards and mirror frames.
Let’s leave the multiple legends and numerous guesses and suppositions where the real lost Amber room could possibly be to those in search for plundered treasure. The other puzzle the historians rack their brains on is the reason: why was the Amber study created in the first place? Why did four Russian monarchs within the period of almost 70 years were so careful to keep, maintain and develop the amber panels, hiring the best and most famous architects and amber carvers for that purpose?
The answer to that question may lie in the significance and value of amber in the 18th century. In the days when rococo ruled Europe, satisfaction of the desires and dreams was the key stone in the higher society that was striving to accommodate whims, looking for pleasures and life beauties. The “sun stone” was believed to be the material that satisfied all senses of perception, and thus can be admitted a perfect gemstone for the 18th century. In this respect, the precious “sun stone” room produced on the contemporaries the impression of fabulous and even outrageous luxury and thus served as a symbol of inconceivable wealth.
Amber Workshop Today
An unbelievable amount of historic research work was done. Besides the techniques, patterns and devices of medieval Prussian craftsmen, the Russian restorers have developed their own unique methods and solutions of amber-carving and work with other semi-precious stones used in applied art objects. 11 mln dollars was invested in the recreation of the picturesque amber panels within the period of 1979 till 2003. As for the approximate estimated value of the original panels that were lost in the war, it’s 145 mln dollars. The 18th century lost Amber Study even appears in the Guiness Records book as the most valuable artistic masterpiece lost in WWII.
The Amber Workshop restorers do not only take care of the fragile sensitive panels, but also are involved in other restoration projects, for instance, Agate Rooms, Lyonese parlour of the Catherine Palace and other halls, where the enormous expertise and well-honed skills and methods of the stone-cutters can be useful.
Plan a visit to Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop to see the masters, who brought the legend into life again. See their daily work on new masterpieces and amazing objects of art that they recreate. To arrange a private workshop tour contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org