Part of the Oxford Instruments Group

Jan. 31, 2023

WITec Helps Investigate Holy Roman Empire Crown

Raman spectroscopy reveals gemstone details.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna is using advanced instrumentation, including a WITec Raman microscope, to conduct the most thorough analysis to date of the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire. This singular artifact of European history and masterpiece of the western goldsmith’s art is kept at the Imperial Treasury after being used in the coronation of Kings and Emperors for many centuries.

WITec Raman probe positioned to acquire data from the Imperial Crown. © KHM-Museumsverband
WITec Raman probe positioned to acquire data from the Imperial Crown. © KHM-Museumsverband

Given the significance and inestimable value of the crown, it was necessary to bring the laboratory to the sample. A cooperation between the research group of Dr. Martina Griesser, Head of the Scientific Laboratory at the KHM, Prof. Dr. Lutz Nasdala from the Institute of Mineralogy and Crystallography at the University of Vienna, and WITec resulted in a portable Raman system being installed in the Treasury for the investigation. Following a brief training session, data could be acquired that provided detailed insight into the history of the object.

Prof. Dr. Nasdala used Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy to characterize the crown’s set of 172 gemstones, which was found to consist of 71 sapphires, 50 garnets, 20 emeralds, 13 amethysts, four chalcedonies, three spinels, and eleven differently colored pieces of glass. He also discovered evidence of heating to near 1000 °C in a red spinel.

Preliminary scientific data was announced at a press conference on January 30 in Vienna, where the crown’s historical context was described and WITec’s contribution was noted. Further results will be published soon in the Journal of Gemmology. An exhibition on the project is planned to open at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

We encourage everyone with an interest in science, art history and archaeology to explore this fascinating study.

Imperial Crown Project Page

University of Vienna Imperial Crown Page (In German)

Imperial Crown press conference in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.
Imperial Crown press conference in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.

About WITec

WITec GmbH pioneered 3D Raman imaging and correlative microscopy and continues to lead the industry with a product portfolio that offers speed, sensitivity and resolution without compromise. Raman, AFM and SNOM microscopes, select combinations thereof, and WITec-developed Raman-SEM (RISE) instruments can be configured for specific challenges in chemical and structural characterization through a modular hardware and software architecture with built-in capacity for expansion. Research, development and production are located at WITec headquarters in Ulm, Germany, and the WITec sales and support network has an established presence in every global region. In September 2021, WITec became a member of the Oxford Instruments Group, bringing technology leadership in Raman microscopy to its extensive portfolio of businesses.

Press Contact

WITec GmbH
Lise-Meitner-Str. 6, 89081 Ulm, Germany
Phone: +49 731 140 70 0

Download high-resolution pictures

WITec Raman probe positioned to aquire data from the Imperial Crown. © KHM-Museumsverband