The way to wealth. The ancient alchemists thought there was a
substance which would convert all baser metals into gold. This
substance they called the philosopher's stone. Here the word stone is
about equal to the word substratum, which is compounded of the Latin sub and stratus (spread-under), the latter being related to
the verb stand, stood, and meaning something on which the
experiment stands. It was, in fact, a red powder or amalgam to drive
off the impurities of baser metals. (Stone, Saxon, stán.)
According to legend, Noah was commanded to hang up the true and
genuine philosopher's stone in the ark, to give light to every living
Inventions discovered in searching for the philosopher's stone.
It was in searching for this treasure that Boticher stumbled on the
invention of Dresden porcelain manufacture; Roger Bacon on the
composition of gunpowder; Geber on the properties of acids; Van Helmont
on the nature of gas; and Dr. Glauber on the
“salts” which bear his name.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894