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 were 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. Wealthy users would commission cases such as that shown to hold the precious ‘cure-all’ stone.
The casket is an interesting example of an item from an early collection being adapted to fit a later piece, of similar design. The inner frame that holds the eight gilt scent bottles and has an oval central compartment could possibly be the “Gold Case for Essence Bottles, of philligrin” mentioned in the Deed of Gift of 1690 that lists the massive inheritance of Anne, 5th Countess of Exeter from her mother, Elizabeth Cavendish. The bottles bear the mark of John Chartier, a Huguenot working in London in the 17th Century. The 18th Century filigree casket is decorated with enamel plaques.