Knowledge

Gemstones from Austria

Gemstones can be found in Austria’s mountains if you know where to look. The stones found by wanderers and gemstone enthusiasts are usually only suitable as inexpensive gemstones or tumbled stones, but in the 19th century in Austria especially emeralds and garnets were also mined for high-quality jewelry production.

Where can you find gemstones in nature?

Typical places where minerals and gemstones are found are river beds and streams. The erosion of rocks releases the gemstones and transports them with the flow of water. As the valuable stones are not found at their place of origin for this reason, such sites are also known as “secondary deposits”. Gemstones also come to the surface in the mountains – for example in the Alps – as a result of tectonic movement and erosion.

Emeralds in Austria

In the Habachtal, which is located in the Hohe Tauern mountains in Salzburg, there is an important locality for emeralds in Europe. The emeralds found here are usually the size of a fingernail and blackish-green or apple-green in color. They have the typical inclusions of emeralds, but in such large numbers that the stones found appear dull. Already in the Middle Ages there were finds here. They were documented systematically in a mineral encyclopedia in 1850. In the 1860s the mining was professionalized by an emerald plant. However, due to the impassable terrain and the lack of infrastructure on site, mining was only profitable for a short time, and the plant was closed again in 1913. Today, themed hikes are offered and there is a signposted hiking trail to search for emeralds on your own.

Garnets in Austria

In the 18th and 19th century garnet jewelry was very popular, but for this primarily Bohemian garnet was used.

The Carinthian garnet sites in the Nockberge area were particularly important during the Habsburg monarchy. In the 18th and 19th century garnet jewelry was very popular, but for this primarily Bohemian garnet was used. Chemically, Bohemian garnet is pyrope, which occurs in small sizes and has a very strong sparkle.

In order to meet the increasing demand for garnets in the 19th century, the mining of garnets began in Carinthia – Carinthian garnets are almandines, which are larger than pyrope. Nowadays, when hiking in the Nockberge mountains, you can still find garnets that are interesting for hobby collectors.

Find opals in Austria

In Austria, with a little perseverance you can find opals in the Waldviertel in Lower Austria around Dobersberg, Waldkirchen and Lexnitz – in particular dendritic opal. This is also known as “moss opal” and gets its characteristic appearance from inclusions of iron and manganese. The most famous opal is the precious opal with its vivid “opalescent” play of colors. The common opal, on the other hand, to which the moss opal belongs, shows no play of color.

Other gemstone finds in Austria

In the Alps, there are also sites for rock crystals and smoky quartz, which, however, are only interesting for hobby collectors. In addition, there is a very large, easily accessible vein of amethyst in Maissau in Lower Austria, which was discovered in 1845 during quarry work. In the show gallery and visitor area, those interested can learn more about gemstones and can also dig for small amethysts themselves.

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Dr. Thomas Schröck
The Author:

Dr. Thomas Schröck

The founder and managing partner of THE NATURAL GEM has been active in international gemstone trading for 30 years. As a doctor of economics and a certified gemmologist in Switzerland, Germany and the USA, among other countries, he is one of Europe’s leading experts on naturally-coloured, untreated gemstones and investments in them.

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