Nordenskiöld was educated at Turku before moving to Stockholm where he was influenced by Swedenborgianism. He was supported by the king of Sweden, Gustav III, in his efforts to find the Philosopher's Stone, in order to create gold. In 1782 he led Sweden's mining operations in Finland. He was also involved in an attempt, supported by Gustav III, to found an anti-slavery colony on the west coast of Africa. Nordenskiöld died in a violent clash between locals in Sierra Leone, where he had moved.