the beginnings

As with other Imperial collections, there are several phases in the development of the Viennese Mineral Collection, which can ultimately be traced back to the art and curiosity paraphernalia of the Renaissance. The oldest known literature references to the oldest mineral samples in the Museum of Natural History of Vienna originate from the famous "Ambrasian Collection" of Archduke Ferdinand II, the Count of Tyrol. They are already mentioned in the original inventory put together one year before the death of the Archduke (PRIMISSER, 1819). Among others, there is mention of one of the best samples of stephanite from Joachimsthal in Bohemia, diverse argentite from the same location, several groups of cassiterite from Schlaggenwald, Bohemia, large quartz crystals from the Zillertal and Ahrntal, several gold and silver nuggets from "Peru" and the well-known pitch-cemented Colombian emerald samples and single crystals. They represent some of the scarce natural samples of specimens from this early collection.


Major portions of the Ambrasian Collection, also containing many minerals, were brought to Vienna in 1806 by the custodian Alois Primisser and were first displayed in the Lower Belvedere. A selection of the minerals was transferred to the k.k. Naturhistorisches Hof-Museum (Imperial and Royal Museum of Natural History). There followed the emerald, previously mentioned in 1881 by order of the office of the Obersthofmeister which was first brought back to Ambras in 1880.


A few "Naturalien" (natural objects) were kept in the Imperial Library in Vienna in the collection of rarities (known at various times as either the art or the treasure chamber) which were then included in the newly founded (Imperial) private collection of Emperor Franz I (i. e., Franz Stephan of Lorraine). Abbé STÜTZ (1807) noted that "Alles, was von diesem Fache bey uns zu finden war, bestand in einigen Klumpen Silber und Gold aus Amerika, wahrscheinlich Geschenke der Könige von Spanien aus dem Hause Habsburg, in dem berühmten, 34 Lothe wiegenden Opale, und einigen wenigen unbedeutenden Mineralien, welche alle mit den verschiedenen Kunstarbeiten aus Bergkrystall, Achat, Jaspis und Elfenbein in der k.k. Schatzkammer aufbewahret wurden" (All that could be found on these matters, consisted of several lumps of silver and gold from America, probably presents from the Kings of Spain to the House of Habsburg, among them the opal weighing 34 Lothe and some insignificant minerals, which were all kept along with quartz crystals, agate, jasper and ivory in the Imperial and Royal Treasure Chamber; STÜTZ, 1807, p 11/12).


Worthy of note are the "lumps of silver and gold from America", which similar to other Imperial collections - even though mainly for reasons of curiosity and presumably as an urge for sensationalism - were collected as geological objects in the major European museums.