The emerald source in the Habachtal valley, at Bramberg in Oberpinzgau, is the only significant occurrence of emeralds in Central Europe and has been known since 1669.
Duchess Anna Maria de Medici mentioned the emerald mine in a letter to her brother Gian Gastone, the last Grand Duke Medici of Tuscany, at the beginning of the 18th century, in reference to a report by the Danish priest and naturalist Niels Stensen.
Favourable geological conditions have allowed emeralds to form in the talcose mica schist over the millennia. The six-sided beryls, which, structurally, belong to the cyclosilicates group, were coloured green by chromium. The more chromium there is in the beryl, the more intensive the green.
Seven Habachtal emeralds were set into Abbot Albert Nagnzaun’s splendid pectoral cross in 1786. Nagnzaun, as Albert IV, was abbot of St. Peter’s Abbey from 1818 until his death in 1856. The pectoral cross is now kept in St. Peter’s.
Alois Steiner, a geologist from Bramberg, was able to make a significant discovery when he split open talcose schist rock to find a 40 cm mineral layer with 24 nearly pure, deep green emeralds. It was in the shape of the Madonna and is known as the Emerald Madonna (TXTL1) today. This layer of emeralds can be admired in the Museum Bramberg in the national park exhibition Emeralds and Crystals.
At 2200 m above sea level, a total of four tunnels were made in the mountain over the course of its colourful mining history, of which only one is still used for maintenance work. The entire site belongs to a lawyer family from Munich; entering the tunnels is prohibited without exception because of the risk of falling rocks
Over the millennia, the emeralds have become scattered in the slip rock due to erosion. With a certain level of patience they can be found next to or above the Alpenrose inn in the Habachtal valley with relatively little danger involved.