The Institute was founded in 1954 with the aim of undertaking basic research on precious stones (gemstones) based on stones already in the collection, and the acquisition of new precious stones as well as synthetic and imitation stones. This work was initiated under the first Director, Hubert Scholler, and is continued in an even more intensive way today. The Institute was also strengthened through the provision of an additional academic post in 1992. New discoveries of precious and not-so-precious stones as well as new synthetics and imitations are recorded and all information is updated. In addition, there is the documentation of the material itself which is, however, only possible within the limits of the financial resources available for new acquisitions. The documentation of newly introduced natural and synthetic material for jewellery and the comparison of this material with existing precious, synthetic and imitation stones is, however, of the greatest importance for practical work with these materials. In specific cases, the Institute cooperates with local and foreign institutions and companies, such as, for example, in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the USA, Sri Lanka and Australia.
The employees of the Institute have at their disposal not only the necessary equipment for gemmological investigations, they also have a modern electron microprobe (Jeol JXA 8530-F), a scanning electron microscope with several analytical attachments (EDS, EBSD, cathodoluminescence, low-vacuum chamber), an X-ray powder diffractometer and a UV-VIS spectrometer.
Employees of the Institute give lectures at various Austrian Universities. In addition, seminars are held for various institutions of the gem trade as well as other associations.