Agate Medicinal Charm, 1600-1700

Lieke van Rooij (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)

medicinal charm
Agate medicinal charm, 1600-1700 (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, Leiden; photo Tom Haartsen)

In the 17th century, this medicinal charm was believed to have healing properties. Not only due to the medicine that could be put inside of it, but also due to the agate in the encasing. The belief in the healing powers of gemstones was prevalent until the second half of the century, when the prominent scientist Herman Boerhaave, and others in his wake, dismissed the ‘occult qualities’ of gemstones. Today, we find this small object in the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave, named after the chemist who demasked the gemstone’s medicinal power as a fraud. Talk about irony!