A goa stone holder, 17th Century.

From at least the 13th Century, natural gall-stones mixed with animal hair, found in the stomachs of ruminant animals and known as ‘Bezoar stones’, were highly prized as a supposed antidote to poison. They became increasingly rare, until a group of enterprising Jesuit priests based in the Indian province of Goa, invented a substitute made from whale ivory, crushed pearls, precious stones, resins and musk. Scrapings of these ‘Goa stones’ were ingested dissolved in wine and were promoted for their medicinal powers. The stones commanded huge prices and wealthy users would commission cases such as that shown to hold the precious ‘cure-all’ stones.


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