Magical stones – Bezoar stone – Narwal ivory – Toadstone – Unicorn horn

Magical stones - Bezoar stone - Narwal ivory - Toadstone - Unicorn horn

Magical stone

A stone believed in the Middle Ages and even later to possess magical or healing powers (apart from the setting or any Hiiptions on it).

Such beliefs and traditions extend far back into antiquity, but sometimes had some recognizable basis in the nature of the stone, e.g. a transparent hard diamond to make the wearer invincible, a purple amethyst to prevent intoxication, a bloodstone to stop bleeding, an emerald (impervious to light) to aid eyesight, etc.

Some minerals and other substances were similarly regarded as magical stone, e.g. toadstone, adder stone, narwal ivory (‘unicorn horn’), eagle stone, swallow stone, bezoar stone. Some such magical stones were administered in powdered form as medicine until early 18th century.

Adder stone

adder stoneA stone, highly absorbent, that was formerly believed to be efficacious in drawing out poison, as from the bite of a snake.

Such stones were set in finger rings and worn as an amulet. Also called ‘serpent stone’.

Bezoar stone

bezoar stoneA solid concretion found in the alimentary organs of certain ruminant animals (especially the bezoar goat) and formerly supposed to have curative powers, particularly against poisoning, hence taken internally in powdered form.

The whole stone was also worn as an amulet, sometimes mounted in gold or silver jewelry, to be worn as an antidote against poisoning, first in Persia and later in the 13th to 17th centuries in Spain and other countries of Europe until its efficacy was disproved.
Some silver spherical containers, divided midway, and with exteriors decorated with silver-gilt overlaid openwork, perhaps English of the 17th century, have been said possibly to be such amulets.


A fabulous variety of stone said to be from the head of a dragon and to have curative powers.

Eagle stone

eagle stoneA type of stone, about the size of a walnut, that was thought in the Middle Ages to be carried by an eagle to her nest to facilitate egglaying and said to have magical powers.

Narwal ivory

A variety of ivory from the tusk (horn) of the Arctic male narwhal whale. It is coarse, and marbled grey and white. In modern times it is used mainly in Japan, often to make netsukes.

Swallow stone

Swallow stoneA variety of seashore pebble formerly said to have been fed by swallows to their young to give sight.
It was worn as an amulet.

Unicorn horn

The tusk of the Arctic male narwhal whale, being long, pointed, and having a twisted appearance, resembling the horn of the fabled unicorn.
Hence it was considered in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to be a ‘unicorn horn’, and it, or objects made from it, had alleged magical powers or great mystical significance.

The most renowned example is the Ainkhiirn, the complete tusk (length, 2.43 m) that has been treasured since 1564 as an inalienable heirloom of the Habsburgs and is now in the Schatzkammer in Vienna.


toadstone1. A bufonite (derived from the Latin bufo, toad), i.e. a fossil consisting of the petrified tooth or palatal bone of a fish (a type of ray or shark), which was supposed in the Middle Ages to be found in the head or body of a toad and to indicate poison by perspiring and changing colour, and hence said to be an antidote to poison.

Referred to by Shakespeare, As You Like It, II, i, and by Ben Jonson, Volpone, II, 5. Such stones were set in the bezel of some finger rings as an amulet. Also called ‘crapaud stone’.

Also the toadstone is a name given to certain lavas, e.g. in Derbyshire, England.