The fragments are thought to have been removed from the composer's remains when his body was exhumed in 1863. They then came into the possession of Romeo Seligmann, a Vienna-based physician. They have since been owned by a series of Seligmann's descendents, ending with Paul Kaufmann of Danville, California. Kaufmann has made a long-term loan of the fragments to the Brilliant Center.
Tests are underway to confirm the origins of the fragments and to determine how much lead was present in Beethoven's body when he died. Researchers believe that lead poisoning may have contributed to Beethoven's death.