An Indian silver bezoar stone holder
Goa, late 17th century
Overall decorated in openwork floral motif, silver unmarked.
Diam. 3.7 cm
In the 16th and 17th centuries, bezoar stones were famed for their powers as an antidote to poison and melancholy and commonly used by the Iberian nobility and Habsburg monarchs. The word bezoar is derived from the Persian word for the antidote, pâd-zahr. Hormuz in Persia was the main place where the Portuguese bought these stones. Until the beginning of the 18th century, when medical science began to debunk the belief in their medical properties, the trade in bezoar stones was roaring and they could sell for up to ten times their weight in gold. The scarcity of bezoar stones by the 17th century led a group of Jesuits working in Goa to come up with a man-made version, “Goa Stones”, made of a mixture of bezoar and other precious objects believed to have the same curative powers.
Bezoar is gallstone and hair found in the gastrointestinal system of certain ruminants such as sheep, deer, antelope, goat and camel.